A group of cyclists found a lot more than just slashed prices during a recent trip to SM Megamall in Mandaluyong. The friends had arrived at the shopping mecca only to find the bicycle rack near the main entrance to be overflowing, with no safe way to tie their rides to it. Instead, they locked their bikes together just next to the rack, without being in anyone’s way but still secure enough so they could hit the shops without having to worry about their equipment being stolen. Alas, whatever Christmas spirit they might have been in was properly dampened upon their return, as someone had slashed the tires on all their bikes.
The incident, which has garnered quite a bit of attention since it was shared on Facebook, is currently being investigated, but the perpetrator has not been caught. In fact, the mystery seems to be deepening as we found out during our own visit to the location. The victims immediately informed mall management of what had happened, and asked if any CCTV footage was available that could show the illegal act being committed. While the people in charge of the mall seemed to be very apologetic and helpful, the group was told that no cameras were covering the area.
Now, we’re not ones to take claims like this at face value. Finding it very hard to believe that someone could pull off an act of vandalism in broad daylight right in front of the main entrance of one of the biggest malls in the country without anyone noticing a thing, we went to have a look for ourselves. Next to really not seeing any CCTV cameras in the area, we did find an ominous, hand-written sign that had appeared at the scene of the crime overnight. Could it be that the slasher placed it there as a warning? On top of that, we caught a guard trying to move our bike and dropping it to the floor in the process. We had tied it to the bicycle parking sign next to the bike rack—which, again, was too full to accommodate our ride—and he seemingly wasn’t happy with that. Needless to say, neither were we when we saw our bike crashing to the ground.
The sum of these things obviously raises the suspicion that it may have been a rogue guard or another person working in the area who committed the original crime, but we may never find out for sure. While it won’t be of much help to the affected parties, at the very least the incident serves as a good opportunity for SM management to improve the bicycle parking situation at one of their largest properties. As part of the correspondence with mall management—which one of the above-mentioned victims shared with us—SM representative JB Chua said that the company would improve conditions in the area, with additional bike parking, better CCTV coverage and clearer guidance for security guards all being on the table right now. He immediately made good on one of the promises, as brand-new bicycle racks were installed outside the entrance earlier today (Friday).
Let’s hope that SM (and other mall owners, for that matter) will continue to improve things for people who choose to travel on two wheels. While many still think of cycling as the poor man’s way to get around, the truth is that more and more Metro Manila residents are taking to two wheels in order to deal with our many transportation problems (traffic congestion being one of them). Not using a car also leaves cyclists with more money in their pockets to spend inside the mall, making them a demographic that shopping centers should be fighting over instead of working against. Some malls—like Uptown in Bonifacio Global City—commendably understand this and are offering plenty of bicycle parking with dedicated security guards keeping an eye on things. As the biggest mall operator in the country, SM should start implementing this by making its properties more accommodating toward cyclists.