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Misleading information on comparing modes of transport

September 2015


A major media network sponsored an experiment pitting a bicycle, bus and rail in a race from Trinoma to De La Salle University along Taft Avenue. The bicycle won but under conditions that are favorable to the cyclist even considering Metro Manila’s road conditions that are not bike-friendly (and not pedestrian friendly, too, in many areas).

Would the bicycle have won against a motorcycle where both riders were of similar skills and experiences? Probably not considering the speed of a motorised vehicle even given congested roads.

Would a lot of people consider cycling between, say, Trinoma and DLSU? Most likely not, even if you provide the necessary infrastructure and facilities like bike racks, showers, etc., short of building exclusive bikeways (e.g., elevated).

I have nothing against bicycles and cycling. I have a bicycle myself and I have cycled between my home and the universities when I was studying and a visiting scientist in Japan. However, I have to caution people into thinking and oversimplifying that one mode is better than all others. If we pursue this line of thinking, then perhaps we should include walking in the discussion. I would like to think that there will also be a lot of people who would state that walking (and even running) is better than other modes including cycling. When comparing these two non-motorized modes, however, the advantages of one over the other become obvious – cycling is faster and requires less energy per person traveling using the mode. Such would extend to the motorized modes and comparisons should clearly show the suitability of certain modes of transport over others once distance and capacity are factored into the equation. Thus, we have rail systems as more appropriate over longer distances and are able to carry much more passengers per hour compared to, say, jeepneys. These are even more efficient in terms of energy on a per passenger basis. Further, we have to appreciate that we have to establish a clear hierarchy of transport systems and provide the necessary infrastructure to enable people to have all the options for traveling and especially for commuting.


  1. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t watched the said experiment but I had seen some posts in facebook regarding it. And from what I can infer from it, I think they just want to show how bad the traffic is in Metro Manila. Because when you look at it, those supposedly slower forms of transport is indeed now faster hence, quote-unquote, “better”. But of course, not all the time.

    To share my experience, I usually commute via bus from Fairview to Ortigas. But if I find myself at EDSA by about 7-8AM, from time to time, I walk from GMA-Kamuning to Crame (Bonny Serrano Avenue) then just ride a bus again to Ortigas just to avoid that stupid choke. I know it may seem extreme but it only takes about 40 minutes to get to Crame from GMA. Compared to my other option which is just to sit and wait, it’ll take me about 45-60+ minutes to travel from the same two points. This really bugged me so I measured the distance from this two points only to find that it is only about 3km. This means that the best case for not walking during rush hour is indeed [b]slower[/b] than walking. That is probably saying something.

    And on the infrastructure on biking, If they do provide bikeways and I mean proper and safe ones. I would bike to my destination. But as of now, never. Because I fear that if I do bike to and fro, there may come a time that I won’t reach my destination. Many others probably share the same sentiment. But if ever that they can prove that it is safe, you’ll probably see the numbers boom.

    Lastly, I would agree with you that we should have a hierarchy when it comes to transport systems. Efficiency would be hard to achieve without it. However, that would mean overhauling the current one we have. Call me a a pessimist but I don’t see it in our near future. Maybe if China bombs the hell out of Metro Manila? We could rebuild from the ashes after that… -_-

    • d0ctrine says:

      A friend was telling me last night that he would have considered cycling or walking but then we don’t have safe walkways or bikeways, and roads are flooded anyway. So there’s another challenge in the form of poor drainage that will affect most modes available to us. 😦

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