Editor’s Note: Janardan das Ladyong has been a bike commuter in Metro Manila since 2008. He started recording his commutes in 2017, and began uploading bike commute footage on his page, Manila Bike Commuter, to demonstrate the perspective of bike commuters in Metro Manila, its challenges and benefits. He wants to show that bike commuting is a viable form of transport, and that bike commuters should be seen as legitimate road users and not as road nuisances.
In March 2020, the national government haphazardly shut down all public transport systems during the nationwide lockdown, forcing businesses and essential workers to look for other options to go to work. One transport vehicle that became popular was the bicycle. Since then, bike commuting was seen more as a viable mode of transportation.
Apart from a few aging bike lanes along Pasig and Marikina, there was no working bicycle infrastructure in pre-pandemic Metro Manila. Local government units scrambled to put up bike lanes in June 2020 with mixed results. Some of the bike lanes made certain routes safer for bike commuters, while others were undeniably substandard which posed risks for riders. As a response to this lack of bicycle infrastructure, a few advocacy groups put up makeshift bike lanes along Commonwealth Avenue, much to the dismay of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). This led the MMDA to work with these same bicycle advocacy groups by agreeing to test the feasibility of bike lane networks. They then put up temporary bike lanes along EDSA.
Reaction to the pop-up bike lanes was largely positive based on a November 2020 survey by Social Weather Station (SWS), with 9 out of 10 Filipinos believing that active transportation is possible in their community and should be prioritized.
Finally, under Bayanihan 2, the National government considered putting up bike lane networks in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao. Following this, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) also released guidelines on putting up bike lanes. As a result, bike lane networks were started by DPWH in January 2021, and were completed in June.
It’s still an uphill battle to shift the mindset of the motoring public, who remains vocal against the implementation of bike lanes. The recent removal of protected bike lanes along Amang Rodriguez and C. Raymundo in Pasig City is worrying and shows that bicycling advocates must remain vigilant in ensuring that the bike lane networks that were started during the pandemic will not end in vain.
Much work also needs to be done to ensure the safety of bike commuters. Many of our bike lanes are still hazardous, with rough patches, uneven drainages/manholes, and metal sheets peppered on them.
Below are some GoPro photos documenting two years of bicycle commuting in Metro Manila.