When it comes to building bicycle lanes, let’s just say that Metro Manila and some of the country’s big cities have quite a long way to go. Without going into specifics, these aren’t the same as the ones you see in Amsterdam or Copenhagen. Some lanes are just barely wide enough for even one bicycle, made worse by cars and motorcycles occupying them while jostling for space in traffic.
As someone who is used to the comfort and convenience of a four-wheeled vehicle, I have always been apprehensive of leaving my car key at home and jumping on my bicycle to go places. Last year, I bought a pre-loved mountain bike hoping that I’d get in shape and reduce my monthly expense on fuel. But it wasn’t meant to be as my will to exercise waned as quickly as I finished a plate of fried chicken. In addition, the lack of bike-friendly infrastructure has further kept me from switching to pedal power due to fear for my own safety.
And so, the guarded bike lanes along Agham Road and BIR Road have somehow given me hope that safe bicycle commuting is possible (in Quezon City, at least). Taking up one lane that used to be meant for cars, the bidirectional bike lanes have decent width for two cyclists going in opposite directions. There are clear signs that the space is meant for bicycles only. The pavement on these roads is relatively smooth, which is good for those whose bums (and nuts) get easily sore.
When it comes to barriers, the ones used on these lanes are pretty substantial. They are painted yellow so it’s quite easy to see even in the dark. The height appears to be the same as the parking stoppers used in malls. That makes it quite effective in informing inattentive drivers that they are straying onto the bike lane, and should be enough to allow bicycles and cars to safely coexist in the same space. A colleague even pointed out that Agham Road has several at-grade crosswalks, which, in theory, can slow down vehicles on that street.
It isn’t perfect, though. For one, the barriers on Agham Road only go up to where Philippine Science High School is. After that point, vehicles wanting to turn left on Quezon Avenue immediately occupy the bike lane. And then, there’s the issue of cars and motorcycles using the lanes themselves. Let’s just say that some Filipino motorists have yet to learn how to respect the space that’s reserved for those on pedal power.
To be honest, just these bike lanes alone are not enough to convince me to leave my car. There has to be a consistent effort by the authorities to put up more of these and ensure the safety of the cycling public. However, the fact that these lanes even exist now makes me hopeful. It’s a solid starting point that should one day bloom into something that will truly make me ride my bicycle with confidence.