Bikes > Cycle

I just learned how to ride a bicycle

The author discovered some interesting things about riding

It's never too late to learn how to ride a bicycle. PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD

My friends and family members know that I wouldn’t touch any form of transportation with fewer than four wheels. If I couldn’t drive somewhere, I would rather walk or commute. But because of the pandemic, the latter isn’t viable due to health-related concerns.

With the newest “season” of enhanced community quarantine, I’ve finally decided to teach myself how to ride a bicycle as a way to exercise (it’s better late than never).

Some motorists do know how to give cyclists a wide berth. PHOTOS BY HANS BOSSHARD

I’m not a fast learner as it took me quite a while to find my balance (almost slamming into the side of my car once) and to grasp proper road etiquette under the tutelage of my dad and my colleague (who are experienced cyclists).

I remember the first time I was able to go out and about. It felt so liberating, much akin to the feeling of driving a convertible with the top down. The fact that I wasn’t using any fuel (or producing any emissions) to get somewhere was refreshing, all while taking just a quarter of road space that I’d normally occupy with a car. It felt really invigorating, to say the least. I started using my bike to run some errands. And parking was a lot more convenient, too.

I’m not completely ditching my car because there are obviously some things you can’t do with a bicycle. But for everything else, I feel like pedal power would suffice.

The author thought that Makati's guarded bike lanes would be safe from cars. PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD

I was already aware of how hard it is to be a cyclist on our roads. But the more I spent biking around, experiencing it firsthand verified my fears about how dangerous it could be. Our roads are still primarily made for cars, after all.

A lot of the bicycle lanes are inconsistently installed and enforced. Those along Ayala Avenue, Greenhills, Ortigas and within Bonifacio Global City are some of the better ones with bollards to protect cyclists. Other bike lanes appear to be just a suggestion—like a knee-jerk, “me too” reaction just to say the authorities care for cyclists.

And while some are well-maintained, others often have deep potholes and uneven asphalt—one of which caught me off guard and threw me off my bike. If you can easily patch up ruts on main roads, why neglect the bike lanes?

Just some of the cars that thought they were bicycles. PHOTOS BY HANS BOSSHARD

Take note that some parts of Makati have “sharrows” (or shared lanes that allow bicycles, electric kick scooters, mopeds, and cars to coexist). While a nice idea, it doesn’t work most of the time, which leads me to how a lot of drivers don’t seem to care about the bike lane.

One of my most memorable encounters was the time I passed under the Ayala MRT station, where the clearly indicated bike lane was occupied by several buses and taxis.

My colleague and I asked several traffic enforcers about this, and they all said that the drivers did it “out of habit” (even if the adjacent lanes indicated where they were really supposed to go). Heck, one of the buses impatiently honked at us for cycling in the, er, bike lane.

Other examples include the usual government vehicle parked in the bike lane, and motorcycles using it as a shortcut. And don’t get me started about the “bike lanes” along EDSA. To be fair, the behavior of most motorists also stems from how hastily planned and converted some of the lanes are.

The outermost lane is clearly reserved for bicycles. PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD

While I can rant about how inconsiderate other motorists can be toward cyclists, this bad behavior also goes both ways. I have seen “jempoys” weaving in and out of cars, cutting them off, and moving against the flow of traffic—among other violations. You can easily see why some motorists flat-out despise bicycle riders. To the car drivers who were patient enough to wait for me to fumble my way forward at an intersection, I thank you. And I wish that more people would follow your example.

But this bus driver thought it was his lane, and even honked at the author. PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD

While it may take a while for our government to properly address the infrastructure, educating our motorists, traffic enforcers, and cyclists to be more respectful and aware of the rules would make a bigger impact.

Would I continue cycling? Of course. It has helped me become more attentive to other cyclists on the road. I urge many of you car-driving readers to do the same. Hopefully, you’ll have the same epiphany as I did. After all, sharing is caring. And we should all share the road with each other.

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.