I love cars, but I hate driving in Metro Manila and it’s pretty obvious why. Being well-traveled has exposed me to different modes of transportation abroad. However, I have yet to go around the country’s National Capital Region on two wheels. That is, until a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve known how to bike ever since I was 13, but was always limited to a controlled environment. On public roads, the basics are still the same, but a greater degree of situational awareness is needed since motorists aren’t very considerate in general.
Behind the wheel of a car, the idea of getting into an accident sounds more like an inconvenience thanks to safety features such as seatbelts and airbags. However, cyclists don’t have anything except maybe the helmet on their head, so a minor tap from a car could be serious. That’s why simple things such as merging or crossing an intersection are much riskier on two wheels.
I don’t want to hold up cars behind me, so I stay on the right as much as possible. But there are times when motorists don’t leave enough space when passing. If a car were to scrape my handlebar, I’d likely crash into the gutter or the sidewalk.
Changing lanes when driving is already difficult even with turn signals, but doing it on a bicycle is much worse. My cycling friends told me to use hand signals and eye contact to clearly signal my intentions. However, motorists simply whiz by while cars behind honk their horns telling me to get out of the way. As much as I don’t want to slow down the flow, it’s not my fault for not being able to go as fast.
Because of these, there are times when it’s safer to act like a car. Occupying the middle of a lane leaves no room for risky overtakes on tight streets. If I plan on turning left or see an obstruction up ahead (either some obstacle or a stopped car), then I get out of the bike lane (if there is any) in advance to avoid getting cut off. This should only be done out of necessity, not entitlement since everyone should share the road.
Aside from dealing with motorists, there’s also the weather and the heat. The climate in the Philippines is hot, and there’s nothing we can do to change that, but it shouldn’t stop people from cycling.
The only thing that can be done is to prepare by planning your trips, packing extra clothes, and bringing water. However, this doesn’t mean one can bike in all conditions since one should consider his/her health, safety and security as well.
In spite of all these, cycling has been life-changing for me as it allows me to travel without the inconveniences that plague cars. Although I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, one doesn’t need it to see that bikes take up much less space than cars.
I don’t get held up as much in traffic, plus parking isn’t a problem as long as there’s a place to secure my bike (thankfully, our office at VISOR provides me that space). Good thing more and more establishments realized this, and have set up dedicated bike parking. (Don’t make the grave mistake of charging cyclists like Molito did earlier this year.)
Being a travel photographer, I enjoy the sense of adventure and exploration that biking gives as it makes a lot of places accessible. There’s satisfaction in knowing that I can go far without contributing to the traffic and the pollution.
If this isn’t enough to encourage you, then rising fuel prices are something no one can ignore. Why spend around P80 per liter on fuel when cycling is free and also gives a workout?
Not only are cars becoming more expensive, but owning one will only drain money as time passes. On the other hand, bicycles are affordable and much easier to maintain.
As much as I’d like to go carless, there are times when that’s the only way to move around—such as when traveling with passengers or cargo. I’m still a beginner, so I don’t bike to unfamiliar places or when it’s raining or during nighttime.
However, cycling has significantly affected my driving. Having experienced the hardships of pedestrians and cyclists made me kinder behind the wheel. Before, I’d get annoyed at stopping to give way, but being in other road users’ shoes has shown me the hardships they face regularly. Sacrificing a few minutes of my time is worth it if it makes the roads momentarily safer for them.
This doesn’t mean pedestrians and cyclists can disregard the rules, but please understand that they have the greatest risk. Pedestrians barely have any sidewalks and crossing, while cyclists are at the mercy of motorists, so let’s not make life any harder for them. If you still don’t understand, please try commuting or cycling to get where you need to be.
In celebration of World Bicycle Day—yes, that’s today—let us be more considerate of bicycle riders. If you’re a motorist, please share the road next time you encounter cyclists.