Senator Pia S. Cayetano says biking and walking as a means of travel are bound to become an integral part of the ‘new normal’ to keep more people safe from COVID-19.
The senator on Monday (May 11) filed Senate Bill No. 1518 or the “Safe Pathways Act” to create a network of pop-up bicycle lanes and emergency pathways that would connect people to essential destinations during the pandemic, all while ensuring that physical distancing is maintained.
Cayetano said there is well-founded fear that the cramped buses, jeeps and trains are hot-spots for the spread of COVID-19. Thus, these “people-oriented and pedestrian-friendly” bike lanes and emergency pathways will help augment the limited forms of transportation and mobility allowed under the community quarantines, and may also be adopted in the long term to help decongest roads and reduce pollution in the country.
“As our cities see air quality improve during the lockdowns, there’s an incentive not to return to the pre-lockdown air pollution levels,” she said, citing the reported 180% decrease in particulate matter (PM2.5) in NCR since the enhanced community quarantine was imposed last March 16.
Particulate matter (PM) refers to the mixture of all solid particles and liquid droplets suspended in the atmosphere, many of which are hazardous.
Overall, Cayetano said walking, biking, and the use of other non-motorized vehicles reduce carbon emissions, use less energy and resources, and provide multiple health benefits that increase people’s quality of life. SBN 1518 particularly promotes the use of these modes of transportation as the primary means of travel in the time of COVID-19.
“As we adjust to the new normal, it is inconceivable to just go back to the way we were. This health crisis forces us to rethink our way of life and explore changes that will improve our overall health and quality of life. Planning our cities and transport system require a Futures Thinking frame of mind,” said Cayetano.
Under the bill, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in coordination with Local Government Units (LGUs), shall establish pop-up bike lanes with necessary space to accommodate the one-meter physical distancing rule.
LGUs shall also create designated emergency pathways along local roads that will give pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-motorized vehicle users access to frequented destinations by restricting motorized vehicle passage during peak hours.
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. The private sector is also encouraged to develop infrastructure and programs for the same purposes.
Lastly, the bill shall mandate DOTr and DPWH, in coordination with appropriate 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.
A biking and fitness enthusiast, Cayetano earlier filed the ‘National Bicycle Act of 2019,’ seeking to institutionalize policies, infrastructure, and facilities to properly integrate bicycles as part of our public transportation system.
All these efforts are in line with the country’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular: SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being); SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy); SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); SDG 13 (Climate Action); and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). #