Fread De Mesa

Over the weekends, we spent most of our time riding our bicycles for good reasons too–there were back-to-back cycling actions related to the issue of climate and energy that we joined as a collective ahead of the United Nations climate talks happening in Egypt.

Bike for Clean Energy

Riders at the send-off for the Bike for Clean Energy. Photo: Fread De Mesa

Saturday started early as we joined our friends from Kalikasan Peoples’ Network for the Environment, AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People and No to BNPP Revival in demanding clean energy –like them we believe that nuclear power as an energy source is a dangerous and costly distraction to addressing the need to provide greater energy access to Filipinos and decarbonizing the energy sector.

Dubbed as the ‘Bike for Clean Energy,’ the event was also held to draw attention to the global, national, and grassroots call for climate justice, ahead of the 27th United Nations climate conference.

The program started with a send-off ride around the circumference of Quezon Memorial Circle in Diliman, Quezon City, followed by a two-day 160-km bike caravan for a small team of ultra-bikers from Morong, Bataan. The ride ended up at the site of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which event organizers see as the blatant symbol of our country’s historically flawed approach to energy production.

Pedal for People and Planet

Riders at the Pedal for People and Planet support calls for bold action for climate finance. Photo: Grace Enayo

Since April, the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development has organized the Pedal for People and Planet as a platform for raising awareness on climate justice.

This November, 2500 cyclists and climate advocates joined the 20-kilometer bike ride in Quezon City and Manila, in time with other bike actions in nine countries across Asia.

The participants called on governments of rich, industrialized countries to deliver immediate climate reparations for developing countries that are bearing the brunt of environmental destruction due to the climate crisis.

Riding for climate action

These actions are not the first to integrate bicycling as a tactic for advancing campaigns.

They come from a long tradition of holding critical mass rides or mobile actions in which people meet at a set location and time and travel as a group through a specific route on bikes to assert their right to road access as well as for advocacy purposes.

We have also concluded a recent night ride to promote policies and infrastructure which ensure the safety and inclusivity of streets in Metro Manila.

Climate and inclusive mobility advocates hold a night ride for safe streets and climate action. Photo: Jilson Tiu

What is interesting about them is their timing and the fact that they are both using cycling as a vehicle to advance their advocacy on the streets.

Literally the streets serve as a crucial battleground in the fight for climate justice in parts of the developing world. Inclusive mobility and sustainable public transportation function as key drivers for economic and political activity that determines the course of development for many countries, especially those that are at the forefront of climate impacts and the work of ushering in a just recovery from the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transportation activities are significant energy consumers, providing mobility to passengers and freight, which accounts for about 25% of world energy use and transportation that is dependent on fossil fuels means greater demand for oil exploration, extraction, and combustion.

These facts make a good argument for pursuing campaigns that promote active transport as a key point of intervention for mitigating emissions but also towards developing safe and inclusive measures for our streets.

Climate action on two wheels in the Philippines

On the recent Bike Counts that was conducted by the Mobility Awards in 10 cities—Quezon, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan, Baguio, Naga, Cebu, Mandaue, Iloilo, and Davao—the program, which mobilized 600 volunteers, recorded 191,578 “people on bikes”.

This bike traffic volume prevented at least 4.46 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and translates to daily fuel cost savings ranging from P147,000 to 307,000 per kilometer, which are compelling figures given the continuing rise in fuel prices in the Philippines.

The data provides urgency and a basis for national agencies and local governments to accelerate the establishment of safer, more inclusive infrastructure and policies promoting active transport.

As delegations of countries gather at the UN Climate Summit and as civil society focuses on charting out urgent and equitable pathways towards transitioning away from fossil fuels

It is our hope that the movement for inclusive mobility will grow and that the use of cycling for advocacy will not merely serve as a tactic for raising awareness. It must be recognized as a people-centered solution to energy transition that does not only happen in the area of installing renewable energy.

Equally important is the work of creating conditions in society to make the transition both viable and accessible to everyone by campaigning for policy and infrastructures that not only removes the need for more fossil fuels but highlights the benefits of non-dependence from it.

Commuters, pedestrians, and cyclists can lead the way to a better normal. We also believe that cycling can be a liberating tool to eliminate inequities in community health outcomes, mobility, and transportation access. These are integral to creating connected, equitable, and thriving communities.

The future of energy will be powered by the sun, the wind, and the people. Every turn of the wheel is a revolution.