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Cycling in Metro Manila will give you these 5 superpowers

Riding a bicycle is truly empowering

Ride an ordinary bicycle and you can get extraordinary powers. IMAGE FROM MIDJOURNEY

Cycling is much more than just an efficient and cheap way to get from A to B. It’s a movement, a community, and a way of life. It also bestows these five superpowers onto those forward-thinking individuals who embrace it on the streets of Metro Manila.

You don't get stuck in traffic when you don't contribute to it. IMAGE FROM MIDJOURNEY

1. The power to control your time. If you drive a car around the metropolis these days, then you are not in control of your own time. You may think that you are, but if you’re being honest with yourself, that’s just an illusion.

In reality, you’re entirely at the mercy of traffic. A trip that should take 20 minutes might take 30, 50, or more depending on the mood of enforcers, the volume of cars, the construction sites, the incidents, the weather, the paydays/holidays, and many other factors.

Get on your bike and you’ll suddenly discover that you’re in total control of your time. Trips always take the same amount of time no matter what happens, because there is no traffic for you.

I can tell you that the feeling of whizzing past cars stuck in Carmageddon never gets old. Once you’ve done it, you will seriously question why you have allowed yourself to be held hostage by your automobile for so long.

Unless you dress like this while biking, people won't notice you. IMAGE FROM MIDJOURNEY

2. The power of invisibility. Okay, this superpower is a slightly two-edged sword, but I think the good part of it outweighs the bad. If you ride around the metro by pushbike, you’re essentially invisible to the thousands of enforcers that lie in wait at junctions and along roadways. For them, you simply don’t exist. No coding, no ticket traps, no fees and fines, no NCAP cameras.

This isn’t a license for bikers to ride irresponsibly, but it’s amazing when you don’t have to contend with corrupt traffic enforcers. The downside is that they also often don’t care if your rights are infringed upon—although I have seen MMDA staff pull off drivers of cars and motorbikes for using bike lanes, which is a good thing.

And in the interest of being honest and showing both sides of the argument, I have to also mention that the general attitude of car drivers toward cyclists around here still leaves a lot to be desired—but that will hopefully change as more car drivers become cyclists, fostering a culture of increased respect toward more vulnerable road users.

Getting some exercise is better than nothing at all. IMAGE FROM MIDJOURNEY

3. The power to be super fit. As the economy of the Philippines has developed in recent times, many of us have become office dwellers and embraced a more sedentary lifestyle. Combine this with ever more unhealthy food choices that you can get delivered to your door in minutes (ironically, sometimes by bicycle) and it’s no surprise that waistlines around here are sadly growing.

Doctors usually recommend at least 20 minutes of exercise every day to stay healthy, and cycling to work or to the mall gives you more than that. Cycling is a great way to stay fit, exercise your body, and keep your heart happy. You’ll be surprised at how much more energized you’ll feel once you take up cycling, and how your stamina, mood, and general fitness levels will benefit.

You don't need to splurge on a bicycle that will get you through thick and thin. IMAGE FROM MIDJOURNEY

4. The power to boost your finances.  Fine, cycling won’t instantly turn you into Scrooge McDuck, but it will be good for your finances. Let’s start with the cost of a car versus the cost of a bike. The most expensive bicycle I’ve ever come across was a Pinarello Bolide in a shop in BGC. That one had a price tag of roughly P1,000,000, but that’s designed to win gold medals at the Olympics.

Back in the real world, something like the Merida Big Nine, the sturdy mountain bike that I ride almost every day, will cost you around P50,000, and you can get even cheaper ones. The first bike I used around here was from a Japan surplus shop, and it cost just P3,000.

Once you have the bike, the money saving continues as you don’t need gas and won’t be facing huge maintenance bills or any registration paperwork and fees. You also won’t need to worry about paying for parking (or finding a parking spot), and your bike won’t be losing value as much as your car will inevitably do.

Owning a car is expensive, no matter which way you look at it. Owning a bicycle is not.

Society benefits when people choose biking over driving. IMAGE FROM MIDJOURNEY

5. The power to change the world. Last but not least, cycling gives you the most amazing superpower of them all: the power to change the world. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it truly does.

You can have a direct and positive impact on the world around you by switching from a car to a bicycle. It doesn’t even have to be full-time. Do it gradually and slowly, and you start to be a force for good rather than a part of the problem.

Remember the old saying: “You are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic”? Well, it’s true, but using a bicycle means you can be one of the good guys—a part of the solution and a building block for a better and healthier Metro Manila.

Cycling isn't as dangerous as the image suggests. IMAGE FROM MIDJOURNEY

At the moment, we’re in a bit of a catch-22 position, a paradoxical situation from which an individual seemingly cannot escape. Many people around here are reluctant to take up cycling because there are so many cars, but unless more people start to cycle, the number of cars won’t go down.

Luckily, there are indications that we are slowly moving in the right direction, even if the leadership of the metropolis still hasn’t fully gotten the message that the future cannot possibly belong to the car.

We’ll get there eventually, of that I am certain, and you can join the growing number of people who discover that these days, true freedom on the streets of Metro Manila is not found in the seat of a car, but on the saddle of a bike.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.