Cycling has risen in popularity in the last few years, which is great—but recent actions have shown that the metropolis and the powers that run it are still far away from really embracing this mode of transportation. This is a shame, because if there’s one thing this city can’t afford to do, it’s to ignore cycling. And here are five reasons why.
1. Traffic doesn’t disappear by building more roads. The prevalent thinking among city planners and those trying their luck at being ones still seems to be that the massive congestion problem we have can be solved by building more and wider roads. To use the famous old saying: “Building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity.” It doesn’t work. The only sustainable, logical, proper long-term solution is to reduce the number of cars on the roads.
We can either do that the Singapore way by making it hyper-expensive to own a metal box on wheels, or we can try a gentler approach and encourage more people to take up cycling. The primary reason I started commuting on two wheels all those years ago was that it cut my commute from one hour to 15 minutes. We need politicians to understand what a powerful congestion-cutter cycling is and support ways that make it easier to commute on two wheels.
2. It’s the economy, stupid. One of the biggest arguments you will hear when it comes to not reducing the number of cars in an area—or fully pedestrianizing a street—is that drivers are also consumers and that shutting them out means businesses in that area will suffer. Numerous studies and real-life examples have shown that quite the opposite seems to be the case, and it’s easy to see why. Cyclists are also consumers, and ones who are often a lot more flexible when it comes to shopping.
Here’s a simple real-life example I have done many times: Let’s say you are on your way home from Makati to Mandaluyong on a payday Friday evening, and your lovely wife sends you a text. She wants you to pick up some grilled chicken from her favorite outlet, a glass of nice wine from the booze shop, and some paracetamol from the pharmacy. Using your car would mean having to fight your way through traffic before trying to park somewhere at each location. On my bike, I just dart through traffic as if it didn’t exist, park right outside each of the shops, and get everything sorted in mere minutes.
I could tell you countless more examples where cycling makes spending money in town a lot easier and more convenient. Cyclists also save money on expensive car purchases, maintenance, and fuel—money we can spend in shops and restaurants. In short: Bikes are good for business and the local economy. With cars, congestion is costing the country billions of pesos each year in lost productivity and time.
3. Air pollution needs to go down, and urgently. It is still a massive problem around here, and it’s costing lives. There are a number of studies on this subject out there, and one report suggests that air pollution was responsible for 66,230 deaths in the Philippines in 2019. That’s an insane number, and while not all of it is down to cars and trucks, it’s still an utterly insane figure.
And next to the human cost, there’s also an economic one. Billions are lost every year due to pollution as people get sick, need healthcare, and can’t work anymore. Cycling is one of the easiest and cheapest ways for governments to reduce air pollution. The more people cycle, the less air pollution. It’s that simple.
4. It’s a simple way to stay healthy. Many of us have a rather sedentary lifestyle these days. We spend time sitting at home, then sit in the car, sit at work, sit back in the car, and sit back at home. Lack of exercise is bad for our health, which is why it’s generally recommended to do some sort of physical activity for at least 20 minutes every day.
Now, guess what activity is perfect for this? Of course: cycling. Regular cycling can improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthen muscles, help with weight management, and enhance overall physical well-being. By cycling more, people in Metro Manila can incorporate physical activity into their daily routines and promote a healthier lifestyle.
5. It’s a great money saver. Everything around here is getting more expensive, and that includes the cost of cars and the fuel needed to run them. Cycling is a cost-effective alternative to commuting by car or using public transportation.
It eliminates the need for fuel expenses, parking fees, and public transportation fares, making it an economical choice for daily commuting and leisure travel. Carmakers won’t like me saying this, but the best thing you can do for your wallet is to get a bike.