Last April, PRURide PH Criterium gathered hundreds of cyclists, and now, they’ve gathered thousands. 3,000 professional and recreational cyclists crossed the finish line at the PRURide PH 2019 cycling festival. The recently concluded race was held last May 24-26 at […]
While many of our cities have begun to show interest in creating bikeways for cyclists, the implementation remains lacking. Bikeways are disjointed, unconnected, inconsistent, and often serve as motorcycle express lanes or car parking when enforcement falls short.
In some areas, bike lanes seem like an afterthought more than an actual attempt to encourage cycling as safe and sustainable transport. The most common symptom are narrow bike lanes that barely fit cyclists or don’t fit at all. Even worse, some bike lanes are drawn on existing car lanes without adjusting road markings to provide enough space for both car and bikes—making it dangerous for both cyclists and motorists as they try to fit in a space that cannot accommodate both.
Here, we present two suggestions that could provide a practical remedy for such cases:
1. Use the remaining space to buffer bike lanes
Buffered bike lanes provide more distance between cars and bicycles by demarcating an area of separation. Buffer areas are usually marked by two solid white lines, preferably with diagonal hatching in between.
In the case of wider roads, the rightmost lane can just be completely given to bicycles by marking a bike lane and using the remaining space to create a buffer zone. Ideally, there could also be a buffer zone between the sidewalk and the bike lane in case pedestrians have to step onto the bike lane (like when sidewalks are used for parking by inconsiderate drivers). The buffer can also be used by faster cyclists to safely pass others on the road.
Buffered bike lanes are a good way to show commitment to improving bike infrastructure, but have also been shown to encourage more cyclists to use the lanes.
2. Use Shared Lane Markings
Shared lane markings (SLMs) or Sharrows are road markings that indicate lanes for use by both motorized vehicles and bicycles. Rather than forcing a bike lane in an area where car and bike can’t possibly fit together, shared lane markings simply indicate the reality that both have to share the use of the lane.
While they are not as ideal as dedicated bike lanes in terms of safety, SLMs reinforce the idea that bikes have equal rights to the road and serves to remind motorists to watch out for cyclists.
SLMs also serve to give cyclists more confidence in taking the lane rather than awkwardly positioning themselves too far to the right and too close to the gutter.
While we all dream of safe, integrated, and protected bikeways, our current circumstances make them seem so far off in the horizon. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t practical solutions that can easily be implemented without considerable effort.
Buffers can be painted on existing lanes that are too small for a car to fit with the bike lane anyway, and where space is more limited, sharrows are a good way to encourage cyclists to take the lane and ride away from the gutter while reminding motorists that bikes have equal rights to the road.
When we talk about making bike commuting more accessible and feasible to Filipinos we usually fixate on building bike lanes. But truly integrated, useful, protected, and safe bikeways are still quite a long way off given the pace at which we are currently accommodating bicycles.
Instead, we thought of simple, discrete, but very doable improvements that would improve the lives of current bike commuters, and maybe even entice others to join our bike revolution. Here are three such improvements:
Bi-modal transport systems
A very real obstacle for people deciding on whether or not bike commuting might be feasible to them is the distance that they have to travel between home and work. It is not uncommon to hear people say that they would love to bike commute if only the distances weren’t as big. Bi-modal bike commuting can be a very real solution to this problem and some are already doing it. Folding bikes are welcome on our train systems, and even regular bikes are allowed onboard some P2P buses.
But accessibility to these systems is largely limited and it would make a huge difference if more buses, or even jeeps had built-in racks to accommodate bikes. As an example, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) proudly advertises that all of its buses (over 2,000 units) have bike racks located on the front of the bus. Taking your bike on a CTA incurs no extra cost too.
In Japan, you can take a bicycle aboard any train (including their bullet trains) at no extra cost for as long as you take the front wheel off and put the bike in a proper bag.
Secure and sensible bike parking
A favorite Filipino cycling expression is: ‘walang pangit na bike.’ But in its most cynical interpretation it also means that no bike is safe from being stolen. Sadly, many of our commercial establishments remain aloof if not overtly against bicycles.
And the ones that do welcome bikes usually do so without proper facilities for safe parking; or when they do have parking, the racks are obviously designed by people who have no bike knowledge.
The fact is that it is sensible for businesses to accommodate bikes, and it isn’t that hard to produce sensible bike racks. For starters, bike racks should allow the use of different types of locks including the standard U-lock (or D-lock). Bike racks should also accommodate different wheel sizes and tire widths.
And none of these are not very hard features to include, nor do they add to the cost of production. Bike parking should also be in well-lit, protected areas instead of dark and remote corners that encourage theft.
Bike lockers, which allow an entire bike to fit inside and only requires a proper padlock to secure are also a great option as they prevent bikes from being damaged, and it allows cyclists to do away with heavier U-locks or chains.
Finally, there is the issue of bike commuting being too stinky for the workplace which is arguably silly because going through Manila traffic by public transport is enough to make anyone marginally sweaty and dusty.
A practical solution is to shower at work and more workplaces should consider providing such facilities to employees who bike to work. Showering at work will mean less travel time, less traffic, and bike commuters will be fresher than anyone who showered at home.
While we all dream of integrated, continuous, and protected bikeways; there are plenty of improvements that are readily implementable and would vastly improve the lives of those who are already bike commuting, and might even encourage more of those who have practical concerns regarding distance, safety, and smell.
Did we miss anything? What are simple improvements to our city that you think could make bike commuting easier? What practical changes can we implement to convince you to ride your bike more?
Sometimes a fresh interpretation of an old idea catches your attention and makes you feel like it’s novel and unique. The Compact Utility Bicycle (CUB) made this immediate impression on me once I got my hands on it.
This Filipinized version of the cargo bike is a breath of fresh air in many ways. First of all, unlike its western counterparts, it is much more narrow and easy to handle for people with Asian body frames. This is one of the main reasons why its creator, Alex Silva, decided to make his own version of a cargo bike.
The CUB was initially designed to carry bakery supplies but eventually transformed to meet the needs of daily errands. Instead of creating the usual tricycle, he got used parts from old bikes to create a cargo bike that would fit existing facilities in Asian environments, specifically in Tokyo, Japan where Silva is based.
Handling the CUB
As someone who primarily rides a road bike, I couldn’t help but wonder how the CUB’s weight would fare on short climbs along my usual commute routes. I was lucky enough to receive the bike at Julia Vargas St. in Ortigas Center, which meant riding through EDSA, White Plains, Bonny Serrano Ave., 20th Ave, and Anonas St. all the way to Katipunan Ave.
My route had a total elevation change of 173 meters and while it wasn’t necessarily the kind that would be difficult for weekend riders, it could definitely be challenging for bike commuters let alone those who actually need to bring heavy cargo around. Nevertheless, the 1×7 Tourney groupset installed on the CUB made the experience enjoyable and I can imagine myself going to the grocery and running errands with the CUB on a regular basis. It will certainly change the way I deal with errands that I have to do within a radius of around 5–10 kilometers. Imagine actually wanting to get up from bed early in the morning to rake in some kilometers and check a few errands off your to-do list!
While there is a bit of adjustment required to get used to it, the CUB is surprisingly nimble and easy to handle. Its cargo box, which could also be used as a passenger seat for toddlers, makes for a stable base that maintains the bike’s center of gravity. The distance of the handlebars from the fork makes handling quite unusual at first but the weight of the cargo box helps keep the bike from wobbling around, especially when resuming from a red traffic light. Silva also added hydraulic suspension to the steerer tube to dampen the force of small movements and improve stability.
Braking wasn’t a problem either as the CUB was conveniently built with mechanical disc brakes. It helped to know that the brakes could handle the weight of the cargo I was carrying. My initial worry was that the added weight would prevent me from breaking momentum whenever I had to slow down at corners and intersections. The disc brakes also serve a more crucial purpose during the rainy season when having reliable braking power could mean the difference between losing and keeping your precious cargo.
Empowering the local community
While Silva hopes to introduce the idea of household cargo bikes in the Philippines, fabricating and selling them at scale to make a living isn’t necessarily his goal. His vision for the CUB is to empower small workshops and fabricators to use it as a basic template for customization and personalization.
“The idea is for all interested builders to see how to build it. What’s exciting about it is the innovation that will happen when people start to build from the plan. What will happen is they’ll see the plan, they’ll have their own needs and there’ll be these materials that are only available to them,” says Silva.
He added that small workshops could foster long-term relationships with cyclists by building and maintaining their CUBs, therefore adding to local economic activity.
Riding around on the CUB was a different experience not only because of its unique size and shape, but also because a lot of folks took notice. I lost count of the people along the way—pedestrians and drivers—who reacted in amusement as I rode past them. It was nice to hear positive reactions from them: “Uy ayos ah,” and “Saan nakakabili niyan?” were some of the best I heard. It only shows that there’s potential interest from Filipinos who are tired of spending time and money getting stuck in traffic.
Silva has also spent time joining cargo bike festivals abroad to exhibit his work and see how others would react to the changes he’s made. He takes pride in showing people that a cargo bike inspired by Western counterparts has evolved to meet the needs of the Asian community. He continues to attend events to take inspiration from other builders and see how the cargo bike is continuously evolving around the world.
For Silva, he is only getting started and he hopes more people will join him in his adventure. I, for one, now consider myself a supporter, and I hope my next bike will be a version of the CUB.