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There are two articles that I want to share here. These are quite interesting for me as they tackle something not usually written about when it comes to cycling. The “invisible biker” referred to in one of the articles is the typical low-income cyclist. These are those who can be seen regularly using their bicycles to commute to and from their workplaces; likely to save hard-earned money for more important items such as food and shelter (rent?). They do not use fancy bicycles like those nice, branded mountain, road or fat bikes that you see being used by recreational bikers or weekend cyclists. They most likely use second-hand bikes like those surplus bicycles from Japan, or perhaps old BMX’s that have been modified to make it a bit more comfortable for the long commutes.
I think these are the bike riders that we should be providing safe bikeways for. They are the ones who most often use bicycles for their trips and are at risk of being hit by motor vehicles.
There are two articles about bike sharing that got my attention today. These are both asked the question of weather bike sharing programs actually work or are successful. Following are links to the two articles available online:
Both articles draw upon the experiences in many cities in the United States where various bike share programs have sprouted. Many seem to have had some measure of success but most are not as successful when evaluated using criteria mentioned in the articles. I guess there’s much to be learned here but the experiences should not be limited to the US. There are better examples in Europe where bicycle use is quite popular compared to the US. Perhaps Asian examples, too, need to be assessed but then all need to be examined objectively and according to the unique situations and/or circumstances for how these bike shares came to be in the first place. In Metro Manila, the bike share program by the students at the sprawling University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City is a recent one but is very popular with students. Another, more endowed program in a more posh district in Taguig City is much less successful judging from the usually full racks of bicycles. There are also lessons to be learned here and perhaps things that can be shared with others looking to come up with their own bike share programs in their cities and towns.
I had been curious about the ADB-supported bike share initiative they called Tutubi since it was launched at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) in Manila and at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig. These have sophisticated portals where one can rent a bicycle by simply swiping or tapping your card unto the terminal. I finally noticed the bike station at Bonifacio High Street in BGC. I don’t know how I missed it since we are there weekly but then there are usually events in that area and the bike share station may have been obscured. Following are a few photos I was able to take as I watched our toddler walking about curiously and excited of the fountains and others she found interesting at High Street.
All the bikes seem to be here as not a slot was vacant.
It seemed ironic to see not one bike in use against the backdrop banners of a popular motoring magazine.
A closer look at the portal shows what looks like a new (unused?) facility.
It seems to me that there are few users of the Tutubi at least at Bonifacio High Street. I wonder if the bikes at UST are utilized more than the ones at BGC. I also wonder if UST is monitoring or studying bicycle use in its campus. Its use being limited within the premises of the campus sort of restricts users and diminishes utility. UST has a walkable campus and while its area is big (20+ ha) compared to other universities and colleges in the University Belt district, it is smaller beside Katipunan neighbors Ateneo De Manila University (80+ ha) and the University of the Philippines (493 ha). The latter two are also “walkable” with UP having more park-like features and open to the public.
UP Diliman has its own Bike Share program run by students and (I might come as biased) these seem to be popular on campus as I see many of the bikes used by students to go around from one building to another. UP Bike Share currently employs a more conventional system including subscriptions for frequent users. There is, however, a Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-funded project through the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute of UP Diliman that hopes to develop a more sophisticated system for managing and monitoring the bikes. That project has just started so we might wait 1 to 2 years to see its fruits.
I believe that there is a need to have numbers to guide planners and engineers in designing suitable bicycle facilities. It is not enough to claim there is demand since an important requirement for facilities to be provided (i.e., funded and constructed) are numbers for the facilities’ justification. You don’t build mass transit systems, for example, without a valid estimate of ridership. For one, the ridership allows for the determination of revenues. Roads cannot be built without at least a number like the population of communities that will be given accessibility via that road.
Not too long ago, we were able to obtain traffic counts for the Benign S. Aquino Avenue that is also knows as the Iloilo City Diversion Road. The road includes an exclusive bikeway constructed along its airport-bound side that is supposed to benefit cyclists and encourage more people to use bicycles for commuting within the city and between the city and towns along the national highway. The following figures show the AM and PM peak hour traffic at the intersection of the diversion road and Jalandoni Street across from SM City Iloilo. Another figure shows 16-hour traffic at the same location.
The numbers clearly show the current low volume of bicycles along the bikeways in comparison to motor vehicle traffic. Since bicycles are also presumed to carry only 1 passenger per vehicle, then the volume also translates into an even lower share in terms of mode of choice by travellers/commuters. For comparison, jeepneys will likely carry an average of 14 passengers while cars may have an occupancy of 1.5 passengers per vehicle. Perhaps a more direct comparison can be made with motorcycles, which are two-wheeled vehicles like bicycles. Only, motorcycles may typically carry 2 passengers.
I am aware that at least one NGO is employing crowd-sourcing in order to obtain bicycle traffic counts along major corridors. Neither the MMDA nor the DPWH have bicycle counts with both agencies’ traffic counts only covering motorized vehicles. Few, if any, local government units would have their own bicycle traffic counts (Perhaps Marikina has data of bicycle traffic in their city that is well known for having the country’s first and most comprehensive bikeways network?). As such, there is generally a dearth of useful data for planning bikeways. One option that advocates for the “if you build it, they will come” approach is not something that is applicable to many cases especially those that do not yet require exclusive bikeways. The folly is to allocate funding for facilities that will not be utilised by their proposed users.
We were at the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) this morning to help defend our proposal for a bike sharing system. UP Bike Share is an initiative coming out of a group of students from various programs in their respective colleges at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
One question that was raised among the technical panel to whom the proposal was presented for evaluation was concerning safety of people participating in the bike share. One panelist asked if cyclists were required to wear helmets. We replied that those participating in the bike share were not required to wear helmets and that despite helmets being available few, if any, borrowed the available helmets. I mentioned that there was an article I came upon before that stated the requiring people to wear helmets discourage biking. It seems a coincidence that as I browsed my Facebook just now, I found a link to that very same article I mentioned in a meeting earlier today:
To encourage biking, cities lose the helmets [by Elisabeth Rosenthal from The New York Times, Sunday Review, September 29, 2012]
The article makes a lot of sense especially the observation that requiring helmets seem to send the message that it is dangerous to bike. People associating danger with biking with helmets tend to opt out of biking. I recall that in Japan before, I didn’t have a problem biking in urban areas and helmets were not required. Of course, drivers of vehicles in are very admirable by the way they drive safely and respecting other road users’ right to the road. Instead of having a campaign to require helmets for bikers perhaps efforts should be focused on how to make our roads safer for all users including bikers and pedestrians.
I found a guidebook of sorts as I browsed one of my shelves for some references on public transport. It was something that I got from a seminar hosted by the Land Transportation Authority (LTA) of Singapore many years ago (I think in 2009.). The book contains tips for road users, whether motorist, pedestrian or cyclist. One page from the guidebook provided a list of common causes of accidents involving pedal-cyclists.
The page is practically a checklist for cyclists – reminding them of items that they need to keep in mind when traveling. In Singapore and elsewhere, there are rules for cyclists to follow in order to ensure safety on the roads. The assumption here is that other road users, especially motorists, will respect the right of cyclists. Each road user is expected to be responsible with his/her behavior whether as driver, rider, pedestrian or cyclist. Everyone is vulnerable and even the most safety conscious and careful road user may be involved in a road crash.
Students of the University of the Philippines Diliman recently launched an initiative promoting bicycle use in the campus. The UP Bike Share initiative is a welcome initiative that has gotten the support of the community including the UP Diliman administration through the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs. Here are some photos of pages of the packet/manual.
You can also check them out at their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/UP-Bike-Share/882352095136994?fref=ts
This is an initiative that hopefully will expand especially towards Katipunan and the major schools (Ateneo and Miriam) along that corridor. Perhaps even Teachers’ Village and Sikatuna will be part of a bike share community. It would be nice to see safe bikeways and people on bicycles not just at UP Diliman but a larger area that can benefit from reduced motor vehicle traffic.