A group of cyclists defends improvised routes after the withdrawal of the MMDA

Advocates call for continued protection of vulnerable road users, even if it means facing MMDA charges

MANILA, Philippines – On the first day of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) on Monday, June 1, bright orange 6-liter plastic bottles lay along Commonwealth Avenue. A group of bike-friendly road and city advocates, Bikers United Marshalls launched this temporary bike lane to protect bike commuters. They also distributed reflective vests to ensure the visibility of motorcyclists on the road.

Despite the group’s well-meaning intentions, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) spokeswoman Celine Pialago criticized the initiative as dangerous for other bikers.

“There is no bike lane yet and we can’t just put up barricades, especially one-litre plastic canisters. It’s not safe for bikers because it’s not enough to ensure their safety, Pialago said.

The MMDA also said its officers had to remove the plastic bottles on Tuesday morning, June 2, after they were left unattended by the group.

This was refuted by Bike United Marshalls, claiming that “Members of the Bikers United Marshalls are responsible citizens and they pack up gear at 8 a.m. after their muster duties end.”

The group also supported their initiative.

“For bikers and frontliners to get hurt, all it takes is the right people doing nothing. We believe we have done our humble service to our riders (mostly without protective gear). If the MMDA sees otherwise, then we must be prepared for the consequences of our leadership’s incompetence,” he said in a statement.

{The source}

Statement by Bikers United Marshalls Bikers United Marshalls deplores the statements made by MMDA Deputy Secretary…

published by Bikers United Marshalls on Tuesday, June 2, 2020

{/The source}

The spokeswoman said MMDA was already coordinating with the Philippine National Police to press charges against the group for “putting people’s lives at risk”.

Advocacy for bicycle spaces

To cope with limited public transport amid the shift from Metro Manila to GCQ, many Filipinos returning to work have opted to use alternative modes of transport such as bicycles and scooters.

In fact, anticipating the increase in bike commuters during the quarantine period, the MMDA even conducted a dry run for a bike lane on the EDSA. (READ: Alone: ​​Commuters and the Looming Transportation Crisis in Metro Manila)

Yet, contrary to reports and the optimistic traction this event has gained online, the MMDA has yet to prioritize the establishment of cycle routes. Later they announced that bikes are not yet allowed in the EDSA.

Bikers United Marshalls said in its statement: “MMDA continues to promise cycling infrastructure and to hear them say it will be time before they act to protect bikers is utterly disappointing.”

Due to this shift in priorities, on the first day of the GCQ, commuters were either stuck on main roads or forced to walk due to the transport crisis.

The band also clarified a number of claims made by MMDA about their initiative. For example, they said that plastic bottles are not barricades. Instead, they served to “augment already overstretched traffic control personnel on the road”.

Based on their monitoring, at least 20 motorcyclists per minute cross the southbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue on the first day of GCQ. This is equivalent to 2,400 bikers in 2 hours. They added that on June 2, the southbound lane was serving 16 riders per minute or 1,920 riders in 2 hours.

“Contrary to the claim that our actions pose a danger to people, our actions as volunteer marshals actually protect people… Doing nothing is more fatal. The group also distributed hundreds of free reflective vests to help keep riders safe,” the group added, hitting the government’s unpreparedness of public transport plans for workers.

Bikers United Marshalls is just one of many communities of cycling enthusiasts in the Philippines advocating for safe and inclusive cycling spaces.

Pialago said it will take time to implement the long-term plans for cycle lanes in the country. Rappler.com

Maria R. Newman