October 7, 2020

An Open Letter to Quezon City Mayor Belmonte on Ordinance No. SP-2942–2020

Dear Mayor Belmonte,

We are from MNL Moves, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC)350.org Pilipinas and The Climate Reality Project Philippines.

We are a community of cyclists and pedestrians that works to make active mobility — cycling and walking — easier and safer in Metro Manila, and as inclusive, reliable, low-carbon transport option.

We are writing on behalf of our community members and colleagues who are Quezon City registered voters and constituents who reside, work and travel around Quezon City on bicycles.

We express our strong disagreement to Ordinance No. SP-2942–2020 requiring bicycle riders to wear helmets while travelling within Quezon City for the following reasons:

1.The mandatory use of helmets does not ensure safety of cyclists. In fact, it can work against the welfare of the bicyclist in case of a road crash.

The experience of countries with greater bicycle use than the Philippines tells us that safer bicycling comes from many policy decisions — especially safer infrastructure — and does not require mandatory helmet use laws.

Attached (Annex 1) are studies being done in different countries that had mandatory helmet use, but experienced higher accident rates, as compared to countries such as Netherlands and Denmark who had lower accident rates by not imposing helmets to promote safety in cycling.

The impact of mandatory use of helmet can also be counterintuitive. When you create a mandatory helmet use regulation, you open up injured bicyclists to losing out on their ability to recover damages when they are injured if they were not wearing a helmet in compliance with the policy.

In certain situations, such as being hit by a speeding car, this could create inequity between injured cyclist/s, or the families of deceased cyclist/s, because of the mandatory helmet policy rather than the circumstances of the crash.

The failure of any bicyclist to comply with the provisions of Ordinance No. SP-2942-2020 should not constitute contributory negligence or assumption of risk, and must not in any way bar, preclude or foreclose an action for personal injury or wrongful death by or on behalf of such person, nor in any way diminish or reduce the damages recoverable in any such action.

2. The policy is discriminatory to the detriment of working people who are trying to get by during this pandemic.

Even before this pandemic, there are uncounted number of cyclists who reside in Quezon City communities and travel to as far as Navotas, Pasig and Manila using slow-speeding upright bicycles. We refer to them as shimanongs, shimanangs who are hard-working people earning minimum daily wage to feed their families. If we are to impose a helmet, the cost of safe helmets is exorbitant for them. More so, paying for the penalty for not wearing one.

Imposing fines on them might also take away any earning that they would rather spend on food, essential commodities or remit to their families. Further, this might discourage them to cycle and would rather consequently, add additional burden to the public transport system who also has to contend with implementing physical distancing during this pandemic.

While providing free helmets to them is commendable, we believe that this is rather unsustainable. The city might not be able to provide enough for every helmet-less and all potential cyclists on the road.

3. The Quezon City Government has already passed an earlier ordinance (Ordinance No. SP-2636–2017) that is already robust enough to ensure road safety not just of cyclists but road users of Quezon City.

Under your leadership, Quezon City has passed an ordinance on road safety (Ordinance No. SP-2636–2017 and Ordinance No. Ordinance No. SP-2785, S-2018) that already spelled out the needed strategies and approaches that would make our road safer and more inclusive for cyclists and pedestrians.

As such, the provisions on speed limits must be reviewed in light of DoTr-DPWH-DILG Joint Memorandum Circular 2018–001 (Guidelines and Standards for the Classification of Roads, Setting of Speed Limits Under Republic Act No 4136 and Collection of Crash Data), and necessitates road assessment to determine 30 kph speed limits on city streets and 20 kph speed limits on crowded streets. Lowering motorized vehicles speed limits and cycling speed limits might be the best option to reduce road crash accidents and prevent head injuries.

Ensuring that these are well implemented and reviewed to consider the realities of pedestrians and cyclists on the road, however, will require collaboration and partnerships with the private, civic sector and the academe. We are more than willing to support and work with you on this.

We believe that the safety of people who bike will be best advanced through coordinated improvements to streets and motorized vehicles rather than regulations that may be enforced in discretionary and discriminatory ways.

While we encourage our members and colleagues to use helmets and safety gears, it is for the above reasons that we do not want to impose such to our community as people have different economic circumstances. We promote more the value of road-sharing, observing safe passing distance and respect to traffic rules to our community.

We request the Quezon City Government to review Ordinance No. SP-2942–2020 and reconsider our concerns.

We are more than willing to discuss more and hold a meeting with you on how best to move forward as to how we can mutually promote safety in cycling as we also try to mould a better, safer and healthier recovery to COVID-19 and help make Quezon City inclusive and thriving.


Aldrin Pelicano (sgd) Founder, MNL Moves

Chuck Baclagon (sgd) 350.org Pilipinas, Resident, Quezon City

Maria Golda Paz Hilario (sgd) Associate for Program Development
Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities

Nazrin Camille D. Castro (sgd) Branch Manager, The Climate Reality Project — Philippines

Annex 1. Studies and Reference Materials on Helmet Safety

“Changes in Cycle Use in Australia”.undated https://www.cyclehelmets.org/1194.html . Retrieved 01 October 2020.

• Main Findings : In Australia, after the introduction of helmet legislation (1990) head injuries remained constant after introduction of legislation, i.e. no drop of head injuries through increased helmet use. There has however been a reduction in cyclists since the introduction of the law.

“Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Law in New Zealand”.undated. http://www.cyclehelmets.com/zealand_helmets.html. Retrieved 01 October 2020/

• Main Findings : The same also goes for New Zealand since enactment of mandatory helmet law in 1994. Cycling trip numbers in New Zealand plunged by 51% from 1989 to 2006, according to Land Transport Safety Authority Cyclist Travel Survey (LTSA) figures, with crash rates for fatalities dropping by 51% and by just 21% for serious crashes.

“How Helmet Promotion and Laws Affect Cycle Use”. Undated. https://www.cyclehelmets.org/1020.html. Retrieved 01 October 2020

• Main Findings: Drastic decrease in ridership in cyclists after helmet laws were also observed in Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, and Sweden.

“Helmet Use, Safety and Obesity : Cycle use, risk of fatality and helmet use in Europe and USA”. https://www.cyclehelmets.org/1079.html . Retrieved 01 October 2020

• Main Findings : Countries with lower helmet wearing rates have fewer cycling-related deaths

PL Jacobsen. “Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling”. In Injury Prevention 2003;9:205–209 . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1731007/pdf/v009p00205.pdf. Retrieved 01 October 2020.

• Main Findings : A motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling if more people walk or bicycle. Policies that increase the numbers of people walking and bicycling appear to be an effective route to improving the safety of people walking and bicycling.