Whenever people ask me to explain the concept of inclusive mobility, I always think about an old chant that has been used in the many protests I’ve joined over the years where someone screams: “Whose streets?” and the crowd responds: “Our streets!”
I always use that as a starting point in the conversation because it is a salient reminder that the streets are for everyone to use.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case for years.
Development models that have dominated our collective political, social, and economic life have stirred us towards the direction where our roads and their use have primarily been given to motorized vehicles – mostly to private ones.
It wasn’t until the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing community quarantines that suspended public transportation when road usage has been given much attention by the government. It sparked conversations and clamor for the country to go beyond private cars, create more bike lanes, and better measures for our country’s mass transportation system.
While much has been achieved, since then the question of inclusivity and equity still remains paramount in our pursuit to develop safe and climate-smart cities.
I believe that it is in this pursuit that bicycles function as a tool for liberation.
Because they are a clean, healthy, and affordable solution to reduce transportation pollution, to create sustainable communities and curb carbon emissions that cause global warming.
That is why it is important to call for better urban mobility conditions in Metro Manila with better, cleaner, cost-effective transport options to lessen the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and reduced carbon emissions.
According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), over 80% of road spaces are dedicated for the use of private cars despite only 12% of Filipino households being car owners. This is not only happening in Metro Manila but everywhere else in the Philippines where the conditions for cyclists, commuters, and pedestrians remain challenging.
Commuters, pedestrians and cyclists can lead the way to a better normal and that cycling can be a liberative tool to eliminate inequities in community health outcomes and in mobility and transportation access that are an integral part of creating connected, equitable, and thriving communities.
Lighting the way on World Car-Free Day
Every year on or around the 3rd week of September, cities across the globe celebrate World Car-Free Day, an opportunity for communities to highlight how congested roads can be used in different ways aside from serving as a place to drive motorized vehicles powered by combustion engines.
On September 25, we are organizing a critical mass ride that we will be holding in Quezon City, with the goal of broadening the scope and diversity of the mobility advocacy movement to highlight the need to improve our infrastructures to be more safe and accessible to the most vulnerable sectors such as the senior citizens, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and children. So more people would be able to shift to clean and active transportation.
It is also a way to put a spotlight on the need to make our streets more inclusive, especially for women cyclists and commuters who are more exposed to street harassment and other forms of gender-based violence.
The ride also serves as an event to highlight the numerous benefits of going car-free to citizens—including reduced air pollution, carbon emissions, safer streets, and freedom of movement in traffic-congested cities like Metro Manila.
Lastly, the activity seeks to accentuate the need to make cyclists become visible through organizing participants to wear glowing and light-powered devices that are used for road safety.
The personal is political
Like most of the people I know, the pandemic was a curveball to the past 2 years of my life, affecting both the political and the personal –and if it wasn’t for being able to cycle to do chores or go to work or to just put my mind at ease by focusing on my balance while riding, maybe my overall well-being would have been different.
Cycling provided me an anchor during the difficult months of the lockdowns and I found comfort and meaning knowing that riding my bicycle not only frees me from traffic congestion but also helps me out physically, by providing me a workout and enables me to do my part as an individual in limiting emissions that pollute our air and warms our climate.
Let’s ride for those that we love.