Senator Pia S. Cayetano is supporting a proposal that would prioritize the establishment of pop-up bicycle lanes and emergency pathways in roads connecting to hospitals, which will serve as safety loops for healthcare workers and frontliners reporting for work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking conducted a hearing on Thursday (May 28) to discuss proposals seeking to promote sustainable modes of transportation in the country, including biking, walking, and non-motorized transportation or NMTs.
Dr. Antonio Dans, a professor at the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine, made an appeal to government agencies to prioritize building a “loop” of bikeway systems that would link roads along several hospitals in Metro Manila.
“My appeal is when we build these loops [of safe pathways], we think of our healthcare workers,” Dr. Dans said, noting that healthcare workers are in a “special situation” since they need to practice more safety precautions and social distancing measures in the time of COVID-19.
“Since we are [already] thinking about how to build these [bike lanes and walkways], maybe we can start in areas near hospitals to improve frontliners’ access [to their places of work],” he added.
The proposal seeks to benefit frontliners working in four hospitals in Manila: the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) along Taft Ave., the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center along Quirino Ave., and the Manila Doctors Hospital and Manila Medical Center, both along United Nations Ave.
The six-kilometer loop shall serve as a “safe haven” to ensure frontliners’ safety while going to work on their bikes. Dr. Dans said nearly a quarter of PGH’s hospital staff have requested for bicycles as their access to work had been limited due to the cancellation of public transport.
“We hope that our policymakers, the local government units (LGUs), and even officials at the executive branch, would give us this option to get to work safely during the COVID-19 crisis and after,” he said.
Cayetano, for her part, expressed her full support for the proposal, stressing that priority should really be given to initiatives that would ensure the safety of all frontliners who are leading our fight against the virus.
“We need to protect the people that protect us. I want to help address this need to establish safe pathways for our frontline workers,” she stated, adding that similar hospital loops can be allotted in areas with a big concentration of hospitals like Quezon City.
It should be recalled that last month, Dr. Maria Teresa Dajao, a medical officer of the Manila city government, was killed after she was hit by a truck while biking home from frontline duty.
Cayetano recently filed Senate Bill No. 1518 or the “Safe Pathways Act,” which shall create a network of pop-up bike lanes and emergency pathways to connect people to essential destinations during the pandemic, all while ensuring that physical distancing is maintained.
She earlier said that the bill’s primary objective is to provide safe spaces and priority lanes for frontliners going to work through biking or walking. Some of these pathways may even directly lead to hospitals, Cayetano had earlier explained.
“We want to be able to protect all of our frontliners; even the hospital staff exposed to admin work and cleaning services, the security personnel, the barangays workers, and so on. We need to keep finding ways to keep them all safe, which also means keeping our roads safe for them to travel on,” the senator said.
Apart from her legislative work, Cayetano had started the Pilipinas In Action initiative, which recently launched the “Buy A Bike” project where donors can pledge for bicycle sets to be donated to COVID-19 workers. The initiative was able to donate bikes to PGH staff, in coordination with Dr. Dans.
Meanwhile, the senator also commended the PGH for its plan to construct its own bike parking lot for employees.
“We really have to be able to promote these sustainable modes of transportation in the country with the right infrastructure. We should seize this moment brought about by the crisis to foster this change now,” said Cayetano, who is also the principal author of the National Bicycle Act (SBN 285), and the Sustainable Transportation Act (SBN 66). #