Senators cross party-lines to back Pia’s Safe Pathways Act

Crossing party-lines, members of the majority and minority blocs in the Senate have expressed their support for the “Safe Pathways Act” (SBN 1582), the measure being pushed by Senator Pia S. Cayetano to establish a network of bicycle lanes throughout the country.

The bill’s supporters include Senator Francis Tolentino, who established bike lanes in Metro Manila during his stint as chairperson of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The senator also recently filed Senate Resolution No. 411 urging appropriate government agencies to designate, develop, and improve bicycle lanes in the metropolis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am more than willing to sponsor this measure [SBN 1582]. I join the good sponsor in dreaming that in the next few weeks [or] days, [we will] have permanent bike lanes in Metro Manila,” Tolentino said following Cayetano’s sponsorship speech on World Bicycle Day (June 3).

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, described the bill as a “timely measure”, adding that he has a “personal attachment” to the proposal as his home city, Iloilo, had long established dedicated bicycle lanes, which he hopes to be a model nationwide.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, for his part, said: “Like the Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking (Cayetano), I am also a cycling enthusiast. I am happy that we are giving priority to our bicycle riders by giving them lanes. This is why I strongly support this bill and I hope we pass this.”

Senator Richard Gordon also thanked Cayetano for leading the initiative towards promoting bicycles and other modes of sustainable transportation. He said this could be an opportunity for the country to boost its own bicycle industry and in turn create more jobs for Filipinos.

“I join the lovely sponsor in support of this lovely bill that will make us lovely people,” Gordon stated.

Another member of the minority bloc, Senator Risa Hontiveros, likewise backed SBN 1582: “I would like to express my support to this bill authored and sponsored by Senator Pia, and join [her] as well in this realizable hope that this act establishing pop-up bike lanes and emergency pathways will help evolve the infrastructure for these bicycle lanes becoming a permanent feature of our urban centers and cities.”

In addition, Senators Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, Bong Revilla, Manny Pacquiao, Sonny Angara, and Joel Villanueva, have expressed their intent to be co-sponsors and/or co-authors of the bill.#

Bike for Hope across the Davao Region, from Davao City to Davao del Norte, led by then House Deputy Speaker and Taguig 2nd District Representative Pia S. Cayetano. (File photo: January 22, 2017)
Senator Pia Cayetano leads bikers across the 1st Mactan-Mandaue bridge en route to Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. (File photo: January 10, 2010)
Senator Pia S. Cayetano leads Bike for Hope across the Bicol region from Naga City, Camarines Sur to Legazpi City, Albay. (File photo: February 2, 2008)
Senator Pia Cayetano (center) and her brother Lino Cayetano (2nd from left) lead more than 300 bikers across one of Ilocos Sur province’s iconic bridges. File photo from the 4th Bike for Hope, a 110-kilometer advocacy bike ride that started in Balaoan, La Union and ended in Vigan City in Ilocos Sur.  (January 21, 2006)
Taguig City launches bicycle lanes on World Bicycle Day (June 3, 2020).

Pia pushes for ‘safe pathways’ for bikers on World Bicycle Day

“The time is now… We can seize the moment and institutionalize policy changes that will leave our children with cleaner air [and] a healthier future with bike lanes, pedestrian lanes, and emergency pathways.”

Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano as she sponsored a bill seeking to create a network of protected bicycle lanes and walkways for the use of frontliners and essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and even beyond.

The Chair of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, Cayetano sponsored Senate Bill No. 1582 or the “Safe Pathways Act,” in time for the global celebration of World Bicycle Day on June 3 (Wednesday).

She stressed that now is the best time to push for the passage of the measure promoting sustainable transportation, as the country has been forced into a ‘New Normal’ following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In lieu of buses, trains, and cabs, many, including our very own health care workers and frontliners, have turned to more resilient and safer ‘alternatives’ like biking and walking,” the senator said in her sponsorship speech, adding that cities around the world have already set up bike lanes to facilitate people’s mobility during the crisis.

Following the disruptions caused by COVID-19, Cayetano said there is now an urgent need for the government to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians through proper infrastructure.

“The fact that most of our healthcare workers and frontliners are using these modes of transportation stresses the urgency of our call. Every day, they face risks apart from COVID-19, as they continue to traverse unsafe roads while going to work. We need to protect them,” she stated.

Under SBN 1582, a network of pop-up bicycle lanes shall be created to connect users to essential destinations like medical facilities, among others. The bill shall also create a designated network of emergency pathways along local roads, to give pedestrians, cyclists, and non-motorized vehicle users safe and convenient access to frequented destinations.

Public places, offices, schools, and commercial establishments shall provide adequate parking spaces for bicycles and non-motorized vehicles. The public and private sectors are called to develop other related infrastructure, including parking lots, showers, changing areas, and hydration facilities.

Finally, appropriate agencies shall be mandated to permanently adopt these networks of bike lanes and walkways even after the pandemic, as part of the government’s long-term solution to address congestion and pollution. #

Reimagining EDSA traffic in the New Normal. Senator Pia S. Cayetano joins the Tour of Hope in 2012 (Route: Guadalupe, Makati City to Baguio City in three days) to help raise awareness on cervical cancer. (File photo: 2012)
Healthcare frontliners on two wheels. SBN 1582 is primarily for them. (Photo: Life Cycles PH)

Pia: Now is the best time to pass the Safe Pathways Act

Sponsorship speech on the Safe Pathways Act (SBN 1582 under Committee Report 101) 

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Delivered on June 3, 2020 (World Bicycle Day)

Mr. President and my dear colleagues, I come before you today to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1582 under Committee Report No. 101, otherwise known as the “Safe Pathways Act”, taking into consideration Senate Bill No. 1518 filed by this representation, and Senate Resolution No. 411 filed by Senator Francis Tolentino.

 

I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues, Senator Grace Poe, who expressed her intent to be a co-author and co-sponsor of this bill, and Senator Francis Tolentino, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Senator Sonny Angara, who are co-authors of this measure.

 

There is no better time to sponsor this measure than today, as we join other nations in celebrating World Bicycle Day (June 3).

Mr. President, as a health advocate, biker, and triathlete, I have been fighting for this cause for as long as I can remember.

For almost a decade, I have been advocating for bike lanes and sustainable transportation. I filed my first Sustainable Transportation Bill in this chamber, with the help and support of my fellow advocates in 2011. I refiled similar bills in succeeding Congresses.

The benefits of cycling and walking are known to many, if not all, and yet, many metropolitan centers like ours fail to change gears and disrupt the current transportation system, even if that system does not work.

Fast forward to today… Suddenly, we are living in the time of COVID-19, which has forced us into a new normal. All over the world, public transportation systems were shut down in an effort to flatten the curve. But people have adapted. In lieu of buses, trains, and cabs, many, including our very own health [care] workers and frontliners, have turned to more resilient and safer  ‘alternatives’ like biking and walking.

The World Health Organization, in its technical guidance on moving around during the pandemic, advocated cycling and walking as an alternative for people to “reach workplaces when possible, meet essential daily needs, or provide assistance to [the] vulnerable.”

 

In Europe, China, and the United States, and all over, urban cycling networks surged after lockdowns were imposed. In cities like New York, Mexico, and Berlin, they set up temporary bicycle lanes to facilitate people’s mobility.

And Mr. President, amid the continuous threats of COVID-19, we are gradually realizing the upside to our shift towards sustainable transportation.

 

The decrease in the number of motorized vehicles has allowed us to see the clear blue skies, a sight we have missed in the cities for years… Environmental groups and government agencies, including our own Department of Environment and Natural Resources, confirm that the air is cleaner.

In a time of high anxiety, biking and walking provide more comfort as it is easier to social distance this way. They also promise better physical and mental wellbeing because of the physical activity involved. Moreover, the cost of buying and maintaining a bike is very low compared to owning a private vehicle and even commuting.

Sustainable transportation is now part of the new normal, and we welcome this change in people’s mindset. But we cannot simply put cyclists and pedestrians on the road without ensuring their safety. We need to be able to support them with the right infrastructure, which we sadly lack in our car-centric streets.

 

I bring the attention of the body to the photo, which is a photo of medical frontliners from St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. They are testing out the new bicycles donated through the Life Cycles PH community.

The fact that most of our healthcare workers and frontliners are using these modes of transportation stresses the urgency of our call. Every day, they face risks apart from COVID-19, as they continue to traverse unsafe roads while going to work. We need to protect them.

 

Mr. President, this is the objective of the measure we are proposing today.

The Safe Pathways Bill seeks to create a network of pop-up bicycle lanes that can be used by our essential workers during the pandemic. The lanes shall strictly be for bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles, and shall connect users to essential destinations like medical facilities, among others. The lanes shall also have enough space to accommodate one-meter physical distancing.

 

One of the recommendations made by Dr. Antonio Dans from the UP College of Medicine is to prioritize building loops of bikeway systems that link roads along hospitals, such as those within the City of Manila. This will guarantee that our frontliners will remain safe even before they reach the hospitals where they work.

This objective of our proposed measure is aligned with the call of our colleague, Senator Francis Tolentino, who filed Senate Resolution 411 urging the DPWH, DILG, and MMDA to designate, develop, and improve bicycle lanes in Metro Manila, which transitioned to General Community Quarantine beginning last Monday, June 1.

 

The bill shall also create a designated network of emergency pathways along local roads, to give pedestrians, cyclists, and non-motorized vehicle users safe and convenient access to frequented destinations. Motorized vehicle passage shall be restricted in these pathways during peak hours.

 

Meanwhile, public places, government offices, schools, places of work, and commercial establishments like malls, banks, and hospitals shall provide adequate parking spaces for bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles.

 

The public and private sectors shall develop the necessary infrastructure and facilities to promote the use of these modes of transportation, including parking spaces, showers, changing areas, and hydration facilities.

Furthermore, the bill mandates cyclists and other non-motorized vehicle users to obey existing traffic laws, rules, and regulations.

As Chair of the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, I am also duty-bound to ensure that the government remains cognizant of its goals of creating a more sustainable future for all. This bill shall mandate our appropriate agencies to permanently adopt these networks of bike lanes and walkways even after the pandemic, as part of our long-term solution to address congestion and pollution.

 

The call of our advocates in the health, environment, and even sports sectors is stronger now than ever before. Various government agencies, both local and national, have expressed their commitment to immediately implement our proposals; some cities have made their own initiatives, like Taguig and Iloilo.

 

Iloilo City has a dedicated bike lane along its Diversion Road and on selected thoroughfares in the downtown area. Its bike lane stretches more than 11 kilometers. Taguig City also has a 6.9-kilometer protected bike lane on the stretch of Laguna Lake Highway in Bicutan.

Our bike lane is also separate from the pedestrian sidewalk, and then there is also a permanent lane that separates these bike lanes from the road used by motor vehicles for protection, as you can see in the photo.

Moreover, in time for the World Bicycle Day today, the Taguig City government has set up additional bike lanes along Cayetano Boulevard and Bayani Road. It is also set to launch a comprehensive bike program, which includes the creation of an office dedicated to biking, the establishment of new bike routes in the city, and a bike lending program for city employees.

Mr. President, the time is now. This crisis presents us with opportunities we must take now. We can seize the moment and institutionalize policy changes that will leave our children with cleaner air, a healthier future with bike lanes, pedestrian lanes, and emergency pathways.

Thank you! #

Pia bats for ‘hospital loops’: Prioritize bike lanes to protect frontliners

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.

“We need to protect the people who protect us. I want to help address this need to establish safe pathways for our frontline workers.”

 

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.

Dr. Dans: 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.

 

“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 6-kilometer hospital bicycle loop proposed by Dr. Tony Dans.

 

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.

Screengrab from the Philippine Star website

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.

Screengrab from pilipinasinaction.ph

 

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). #

 

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.