Building safe networks of bicycle lanes in the country stands to benefit frontline workers, including those in delivery services for food and other essential items.
At the same time, bike lanes could open new income opportunities for Filipinos as essential services sectors have been employing bike riders for their short-distance deliveries.
This was among the key takeaways of Senator Pia S. Cayetano from her panel’s first public hearing on proposals to accelerate policies promoting sustainable transportation.
The Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, which Cayetano chairs, conducted a hearing on Thursday (May 28) to discuss with government officials, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders the need for a comprehensive infrastructure plan for sustainable modes of transportation, including biking, walking, and non-motorized transportation (NMTs).
Among the senator’s proposals is the immediate establishment of pop-up bike lanes and walkways in Metro Manila’s major roads, following the imposition of safety restrictions on the public transport system that prompted more Filipinos to turn to alternatives like biking or walking.
Grab Philippines President Brian Cu, who was among the resource persons in the hearing, supported plans to improve the country’s road network for cyclists, stressing that it would benefit the company’s delivery partners who use bikes.
Around seven percent of GrabFood and GrabExpress active rider-partners are cyclists, Cu cited. Currently, they are allowed to accept bookings within a 1.5-kilometer radius, which is half the distance allowed for Grab riders using motorcycles (3 km).
However, Cu noted that both riders take the same delivery time on an average, one of the reasons for which is the lack of access to safe pathways for those using bikes. He also raised the issue of safety for Grab bikers.
As such, he said Grab Philippines is supportive of current proposals being heard in the Senate on setting up networks of protected bicycle lanes in the country, to be utilized during the pandemic and after.
“We support this discussion about creating specific pathways for bikers, so they don’t have to worry about their safety on the road. [Moreover,] it will definitely help speed up travel time [for Grab bikers] and potentially increase the radius that they cover, which leads to higher incomes,” he explained.
He added that apart from benefiting existing delivery partners, the initiative could also encourage more Filipinos to be Grab bikers.
“Adding safer networks of roads and better paths [for cyclists] can allow more individuals to join our platform. They can join at a very low cost, but still make very decent living,” Cu said, citing that Grab bikers earn around 45 percent above the minimum wage.
Cayetano, for her part, backed Cu’s statement on the need to improve our road system for cyclists to ensure their safety as well as to generate new and more livelihood opportunities for Filipinos during this health crisis.
“I am sure there are many more opportunities that we can give for Filipino cyclists, one of which is through your platform. But there are a lot of unmet needs as far as delivery by bicycles is concerned. I am happy to hear [your inputs] and be reminded of the need to address these,” Cayetano said.
“Now is really the time for people to have income opportunities. And something as basic as decent and safe biking skills could provide jobs for them… We have to be able to support them with the right infrastructure,” she added.
The senator recently filed Senate Bill No. 1518 or the “Safe Pathways Act,” which seeks to create a network of pop-up bike lanes and emergency pathways connecting people to essential destinations during the lockdowns, while still ensuring that physical distancing is maintained.
Moreover, adequate parking spaces for bicycles and non-motorized vehicles shall be set up in all public places, government offices, schools, places of work, and commercial establishments, including malls, banks, and hospitals.
Lastly, the bill shall mandate appropriate government agencies to prepare the permanent adoption of the established bike lanes, emergency pathways, non-motorized parking spaces, and other appropriate infrastructure, after COVID-19 is no longer a threat. #