MMDA nods to elevated bike lanes, but not a priority now

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) - More bikers may be seen on the road as the part of the new normal brought by the pandemic, but the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said that putting up bike lanes is not at the top of priority for now.

“We are still in the planning process right now, although the priority is the fight on COVID-19 and putting up infrastructures will be the least of the list,” MMDA Traffic Chief Bong Nebrija told CNN Philippines’ News Night.

The agency kicked off yesterday the dry run of a pop-up bike lane along White Plains Avenue to Bonny Serrano Avenue at the outer lane of North-bound side of EDSA. This is an initiative of EDSA Evolution, a group of bikers and scooter riders which advocates for bike spaces.

During the five-hour dry run which lasted from 7am until 12nn, the pop-up lane was at grade with the main road and only traffic cones were guarding the bikers from the bigger vehicles.

Although the setup was dangerous, MMDA said that it cannot put up right now even a bike lane with the same concept as traffic cones were also distributed to local governments for their checkpoints.

“Even with a barrier, we cannot put up something like that. We have distributed our barriers and cones to LGUs. Really, we do not have something like that to put up a pop-up bike lane in EDSA,” said Nebrija.

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However, Nebrija assured that putting up fenced and elevated bike lanes has always been in talks.

“The proposal for a bike lane has been there in the pipe line. Actually, we do not want it at grade, we want it elevated to the point that we want it with our elevated walkways,” he said.

Need to prioritize

With almost 500 bikers who traversed the pop-up bike lane on Sunday, EDSA Evolution said that MMDA should prioritize building more lanes as more bikers and scooter riders are expected to hit the road even after lockdown.

“I think ngayon gawin siyang priority, kasi kahit dumating na yung mass transport, marami pa rin ang magbi-biskleta, lalaki ang number ng nagbi-bisikleta,” said Keisha Mayuga, the group’s spokesperson.

[Translation: This is the right time to prioritize it, because even though the mass transportations will be available, more people will resort to biking and more people will ride bikes.]

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Mayuga said that their group is already discussing with MMDA the possibility of establishing bike lanes in other areas of Metro Manila.

One of the group’s proposal is to set up bike lanes on the other end of EDSA to connect hospitals as more frontline health workers are commuting through bikes.

“For now, we will see kung kaya namin yung ibang sections na pinropose namin. Susubukan namin gawin sa isang dulo ng EDSA, para ma-connect lahat ng mga hospitals,” said Mayuga.

[Translation: For now, we will see if the other sections we proposed are feasible. We would try to do it with the other end of EDSA, so we can connect the hospitals with each other.]

The national Inter-Agency Task Force and the Department of Transportation dubbed cycling as “an ideal travel mode for social distancing.” Yet, MMDA has only two operational elevated bike lanes: the one from White Plains Avenue to Ortigas and one in Roxas Boulevard.

While everything is focused on fighting the pandemic, Nebrija said that bikers could only resort for the meantime on the available spaces for them.

“Right now, we could use all the available bike lanes in EDSA.”