Biking has mainly been a leisure and cardio activity for many Filipinos until COVID-19 hit. That’s when it became the preferred mode of transportation, due to physical distancing measures and even a new delivery method.
Since then, there’s been a rise in bike use for a variety of things, so much so that retailers have seen an unprecedented surge in sales up to the point where there is now a shortage in parts, supplies, and even bicycles.
As the world is on the mend and the country’s economy opens up, expect more people on the road pedaling to work or for play. While the MMDA and local governments have done their best to segregate roads to accommodate motorized vehicles and bicycles, there are still far too many accidents involving cyclists last year.
One can argue that a lot more people are biking now than ever before, but that’s just the easy cop-out. And there is no excuse for the loss of life, especially when accidents like these are avoidable.
That brings us to the basic concept of road sharing, which is motorized and non-motorized forms of transportation using the same network of streets to get around. Other countries have been practicing this for much longer, but here where traffic is so bad (and tempers are even worse) sharing road space is something we’re just learning.
Notes to motorists
Cyclists have a right to be on the road just as much as you do; this is true even as the National Bike Law languishes in Congress.
What gives cyclists the right? The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic that the Philippines signed in 1968. It states that ‘contracting parties shall be bound to admit to their territories in international traffic, cycles and mopeds’, and that 'no Contracting Party (the participating countries that signed) shall require the drivers of cycles or mopeds in international traffic to hold a driving permit.'
It was then made firm by Presidential Decree No. 207. Yes, it is a Martial Law-era decree.
A) Passing Air
When passing cyclists on the road, make sure you’re at least three feet (or a meter) away. If it can be more, better. More space ensures the air displaced by your vehicle doesn’t push the cyclist off track (know that the bigger the vehicle, the more air movement), and so there’s ample space for both of you to maneuver as well.
B) Honk if you're...
Don’t honk. The sudden loud sound might cause them to lose focus and fall. If you really must, do it at a distance and just give the horn a gentle tap so as not to startle cyclists.
Turn (right or left) with absolute caution. Bike lanes are always on the rightmost lane, so expect most cyclists to be there. But there’s always one biker short of a few gears free-wheeling it on the left, so be on the lookout for him as well.
D) Stopping and Parking
Don’t pull over, wait, or worse, park on a bicycle lane. We hate PUJs when they stop in the middle of the road, so don’t do it to cyclists. Plus, that forces cyclists to move out of their lane and into vehicular traffic, which puts them at great risk.
E) The Door Prize
Lastly, always be on the lookout before opening doors, and warn your passengers too. Cyclists aren’t clairvoyant and can’t tell if a door is about to open. If they’re riding hard and hit an opening door, they could get seriously injured.
Notes for Cyclists
While it may seem like that is a heck of a lot of rules for motorists, we have not forgotten about you cyclists. Sharing the road means you must share in the responsibility of ensuring everyone’s safety. Here are the mandatories for all you pedal pushers.
A) Obey traffic rules and regulations
All those road signs apply to you as well. Just because you’re on two wheels doesn’t mean you’re above the law. Stop at the red light and practice arm signals to let vehicles know your intentions. You’ll gain the respect of motorists when you do.
B) Always stay on the right
The left is only for passing and unless you’re Lance Armstrong, chances are you’re not overtaking vehicles. The left lane is the wrong lane for you unless you're turning.
C) Stay on a consistent and predictable route
Motorists cannot read your mind too, so weaving and bobbing in and out of traffic is foolish and highly unsafe. It is dangerous enough when motorcycles do this while splitting lanes. Do not make it worse because pedal power will not be enough to give you quick separation from a vehicle and a potential collision.
D) Ride defensively
Some motorists will give way while others won’t. Be ready for all possibilities. This way, you are prepped to make a clean and safe exit should you need one.
The latest data from the MMDA states that 10% of all bicycle-related mishaps happen between 7 am to 8 am. Night riding is OK, but if you get into an accident after 7 pm, there’s a 2.56% chance it could be fatal.
If you’re wondering what type of collision is most common, 30% were side-swiped, 15% were rear-ended, and 10% were angle impacts.
E) Drivers might not be aware you're there
If you can't see the face of the driver in his or her side-view mirrors, there is a chance they might not see you in their blind spot as well. This is especially true of bigger vehicles like trucks or even SUVs. Keep that in mind when riding.
Learn to share the road
These aren’t hard and fast rules (at least not until a law is passed) and neither are the principles here rocket science either. We had 2,397 bicycle-related accidents in 2021 - 1,719 resulted in injuries, 645 caused damage to property, and sadly, 33 were fatal.
The total number is just a tiny bit fewer than the 3,026 in 2020, but I’m sure you’ll agree with me that each accident is just one too many.
Sharing is caring but if that’s too cheesy for you, then let’s just start with respect and courtesy on the road. That’s a good enough place to begin as any to get everyone on the right lane to road sharing.