Design & Innovation, Environment, Food & Travel, Mind & Body

Bike-Commute Around Metro Manila

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“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”
~ H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells famously anticipated a variety of present urban ills, such as the overcongestion of city roads, the dominance of “coarser” wheeled traffic over pedestrians, and cars that make unnecessary noise and that “offend the air.” He also probably lived in a city that had less traffic, cleaner air and an overall healthier population – strong reasons for why he had such a positive outlook on bicycles.

But ask a Metro Manila dweller about what she thought of using the bicycle as a means of daily transport and you’d probably be met with negativity. Manila after all has a strong love affair with cars, a sad fact that goes a long way towards explaining why we can’t seem to improve the terrible traffic conditions and air quality of our metropolis.

The good news though is that there is a small bunch of forward-looking people who have started to embrace the benefits of cycling as personal commute. Cycling groups are now increasing in number and are slowly influencing more people to hop on their bicycles to commute.

I Bike-Commute

More than a year has passed since I started riding a bicycle again. I planned to be a weekend cyclist at first. But the cycling bug hit me. Rides started to get longer and longer. Still, I never thought that my bicycle was something I could use for commute.

One time while I was on my way to play football around after-work hours, I decided to cycle instead of driving to the football field I frequented. The usual car drive would take me about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the traffic, but by bicycle, it only took me 30 minutes, even with the usual heavy car traffic around me.

Another time, I cycled from De La Salle University to Greenbelt 1, a ride of about five kilometers. To my surprise, it only took me 15 minutes. If I had taken my car, it would’ve taken me at least 30 minutes, and double that time if by public transport.

Those experiences made me realize that the bicycle is the fastest vehicle during rush hour. And more, I was able to save up on fuel and parking fees. I’ve since decided to take my bike whenever I could, especially during rush hour and if I was somewhere close to five kilometers away.

Traffic bike
Photo c/o

Cycling Groups

I’ve since met other cyclists who are also bike commuters. They’ve gone beyond looking at cycling as a way to exercise, and see it as a form of personal transportation in the Metro.

The Firefly Brigade is the biggest bicycle group that advocates the use of bicycles as a more efficient means of transportation. Firefly is responsible for monthly Mass Critical Rides that bring together thousands of cyclists in a shared bike route as a means to bring attention cycling related issues such as:

  1. Sharing the road with other vehicles,
  2. Having dedicated bicycle lanes and
  3. Installing bicycle parking in public and private establishments.

Groups like United Folding Bikers and Tiklop Society of the Philippines meanwhile, with over 10,000 members between them, advocate the use of folding bikes for bimodal commute. Members of these groups can be seen bringing their folding bikes on buses and trains to augment their bike-commute. They can also be seen every night riding in groups around the Metro using their nifty folding bicycles.

So, what’s your excuse?

Even with Manila being hot and the thought of arriving to work very sweaty after bike-commuting not being very desirable, people still do it. Some detractors might say that it isn’t safe to bike around Manila. Although it is true that Manila still doesn’t have the infrastructure to provide safe lanes to cyclists, there are ways to stay safe while cycling on the road like:

  • Wearing complete cycling safety gear (includes helmet, gloves, lights, reflectors,
  • Riding in groups
  • Avoiding major thoroughfares
  • Following road rules

Others meanwhile might complain that the places they want to go to don’t have bicycle parking (a sad fact that we hope will soon change). Fortunately, there are private establishments that allow folding bicycles inside their premises. There are folding bicycles out there that when folded can be pushed like a cart, stroller, etc.)

Bicycle Challenge Accepted?

As mindful citizens, we try to find ways to reduce our impact on the world around us. I believe that we should make bike-commuting part of our mindful lifestyle because this significantly reduces our carbon emissions, improves our health, and provides us a sustainable way of getting around the city.

So as a mindful citizen, how do you think you can include bike-commute in your daily transportation habits? What deters you from doing this? Are you among the over 10,000 other folding cyclists that want to try bi-modal commute?

These are some questions that I pose to you. As a strong believer in bi-modal commute, I would love to see Manila become bicycle-centric during my lifetime. For now, I will continue riding my Nyfti folding bicycle around Metro Manila, hoping that others see what it does for me and follow suit.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Join the discussion on biking in the metro, among other topics in relation to sustainability, at the upcoming MUNI Meetup this August 9, 2014! Find out more and register here.]

Carl Mamawal is the CEO of Nyfti Bicycles. They have designed and built a very compact folding bicycle that has a full size geometry.


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