Pia files Safe Pathways Act to support biking, walking in the new normal

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). #

File Photo: Senator Pia S. Cayetano bikes along the protected bike lane in Laguna Lake Highway (C6). The highway which connects Taytay, Rizal to Taguig City also has a separate protected lane for pedestrians and joggers.
File Photo: Senator Pia S. Cayetano has always advocated bikers’ safety. She is the author of the National Bicycle Act (Senate Bill No.285), which seeks the recognition of biking as an alternative mode of transportation in government policy and programs.

Biking senator files National Bicycle Act

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for a law that would officially recognize bicycles as an alternative and sustainable mode of transportation throughout the country.

A biking and fitness enthusiast, Cayetano has filed the ‘National Bicycle Act of 2019,’ which shall mandate the development of policies, infrastructure, and facilities to properly integrate bicycles as part of the public transportation system.

“It is time to change our mindset about traffic and find alternative means to move forward from this perennial problem,” Cayetano said of the yet unnumbered bill, which she filed among her second batch of measures for the 18thCongress.   

The returning senator said cycling not only offers an efficient means of mobility amid the daily traffic gridlock, but is also an affordable, environment-friendly, and healthy alternative to motor vehicles.

“We should do away with the old thinking that cars are for the rich and bikes are for the poor. Increasingly, we see more people coming to work on two wheels, young and old, from vendors to workers, professionals, and even executives,” the senator observed.

“Many startups are also switching to using bicycles, like courier and food delivery services. Biking is not just a means of leisure or past time, it has become a way of life for many Filipinos,” she added.   

Cayetano herself regularly uses a bike to visit and interact more directly with residents in urban communities and to reach far-flung towns and mountain villages in the provinces. She also joins triathlons and bike festivals that highlight local sports and eco-tourism. During the last electoral campaign, cycling groups joined the former Taguig City representative to promote her candidacy and advocacies through her ‘bicycle-cades.’  

The senator admitted that the major downside remains safety. “News and social media posts regularly report about bikers being sideswiped or ran over by undisciplined drivers of motor vehicles. And so this is one reason why we need to enact a national policy to ensure the protection of bikers,” she stressed.         

Under her bill, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in coordination with local government units shall take the lead in designating bicycle lanes, which shall serve as exclusive passage for cyclists. Motor vehicles will be prohibited from being driven or parked on any bike lane. 

The bike lanes shall be separated by a physical barrier, whenever possible, and shall be clearly identified with signs or pavement markings. In cases where installation of a physical barrier is not feasible, the lane for bicycles shall be identified through reflectorized painted lines.

Bike promotion measures also include improvements on sidewalks, traffic calming and speed reduction, pedestrian and bicycle crossing, traffic signages covering bicycles, off-street pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and traffic diversion, among others.

Cayetano’s bill mandates all public places, government offices, schools, major business establishments, including malls, banks, restaurants, hospitals, and the like, to provide adequate racks for bike parking and other infrastructure as far as practicable.

Meanwhile, the private sector will be encouraged to develop counterpart infrastructure, facilities and programs to help promote biking. 

Aside from the Bicycle Act, Cayetano has also filed complementary measures, namely the Sustainable Transportation Act (SBN 65) and the Sustainable Cities and Communities Act (SBN 66).  #

Senator Pia Cayetano pedals at the three-meter-wide protected bike lane, which stretches throughout the Laguna Lake Highway (C6 Highway) from Taguig City going to Pasig City.