Group warns budget may expire while MMDA studies EDSA bike lanes

Franco Luna ( – February 11, 2021 – 4:46pm
MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of commuters and transport advocates slammed the Metro Manila Development Authority’s recent pronouncements on the prospect of bike lanes along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue Thursday. 

MMDA chief Benhur Abalos has been reluctant about bike lanes along EDSA, citing the safety challenges of having bicycles on a highway. “Let’s say, do they need to be elevated? Should they be on the pedestrians? Would it be too expensive?” he also said. 

As early as last May, transport officials had promised a “transformed” EDSA for bikers and buses. Even back then, the MMDA had opposed bike lane proposals along the capital region’s main thoroughfare.

However, the Bayanihan 2 stimulus law passed in September allocated some P1.3 billion for the construction of over 500 kilometers of bike lanes across Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao. Recent data from the transportation department, though, shows that only around 29 kilometers of bike lanes have been built since the signing of the law—which is set to lapse by end-June. 

“If MMDA insists on proceeding with permanent and elevated bike lanes on the sidewalk instead of the planned ‘pop-up’ lanes on the carriageway, the Bayanihan 2 funds will be wasted and unspent,” the Move as One transport coalition told in an online exchange when sought for comment.  

“MMDA would be taking an obstructionist stance that is unresponsive to the pandemic, restricts the mobility of the majority, holds back economic recovery, and increases the health risks of those who don’t use private motor vehicles. It also violates President Duterte’s directive for all officials to pursue ‘the greatest good for the greatest number,'” the coalition also said. 

RELATED: Groups slam delays in Metro Manila Bike Lane Network construction

Why does this matter?

  • Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, transportation options for workers required to report to work physically have already been scarce as it is. In the wake of the suspension of public transportation during the general community quarantine, thousands looked to cycling to report to work. 
  • The results of a November 2020 survey by the Social Weather Stations suggest that 85% of Filipinos across all areas and socio-demographic groups believe their city or municipality can be a great place for walking and cycling. 87% in the survey also agreed that roads will be better off if public transportation, bicycles, and pedestrians are given priority over private vehicles
  • The Department of Labor and Employment in its 2020 labor survey also found that Filipino workers generally want to secure more bike lanes in the Metro. Survey results found that 78% of the total respondents would still use bicycles going to work, even if there were other accessible forms of transportation.
  • More recent data by the Japan International Cooperation Agency have shown that just 12% of households in the National Capital Region have access to private vehicles, while a staggering 78% of total daily trips rely on public transportation

Advocates with the Move as One transport coalition and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities speak to the media at an online press conference on Monday, February 8. screengrab

Move as One, a broad transport coalition of 27 different organizations, has been advocating for, among others, active transport infrastructure amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“In cities all over the world, the immediate response to the pandemic has been to develop options for travel with safe physical distancing, such as walking and cycling.  The common strategy for bike lane development has been a two-phase process. In the first phase, given the urgency, “pop-up” lanes are created on the existing carriageway using bollards, paint, and signs.  At a later phase, with more time and money, the bike lanes can be made more robust.  This approach makes sense because people need safe mobility options now,” the group said in its statement.

“We need to do the same in Metro Manila. The urgent need is to establish the ‘pop-up’ lanes,” it also said. 

FROM INTERAKSYON: COVID-19 cyclists: Expanding bike lane network can lead to more inclusive cities

MMDA chief Abalos had already suggested upon assumption to office in January that bike lanes could instead be located at the rightmost lane of the 23.8-kilometer highway together with motorcycles or even on the pedestrian lane, a position that diverges with that of transport and commuter advocates.

In an earlier story, the Metro Manila development czar said that the agency was still studying and consolidating plans for an EDSA-wide bike lane, months before the law funding the project is set to expire. “As long as it’s safe and it doesn’t affect traffic congestion too much, maybe it can even be permanent,” he said. 

“This is what the key agencies, DPWH and DOTr, hope to execute; it is what the Bayanihan 2 funds were intended to achieve.  The “pop-up” bike lanes have already been designed; the contracts have been awarded; the contractors are ready  to go.  IATF has already authorized the creation of bike lanes wherever possible,” Move as One added. 

“The clock is ticking and we have only up to end-June to spend the funds. It is only MMDA that is standing in the way.  We are already so late in our response and Filipinos are suffering.”

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