He was on the bus bound for work when he heard the news of the lockdown due to Covid-19: since that day Angela, a radiologist at a hospital in Manila, has chosen one of the few options left.
The suspension of all public transport services, the lack of a car owned and the need to provide for a disabled mother and brother have told her: walk for hours, or take a bike and use the cycle paths. .
I never thought I'd ride my bike to work. When we assistants didn't have the opportunity to use public transport, I tried. At first I was worried, especially on the main roads. However, over time, I got used to it and now I'm comfortable.
It wasn't the only one. Thousands of Filipinos instantly switched from bus or rail transport to bicycle commuting. Many people continued to use cycle paths even after public transport services were restored. This new scenario has required the attention of the national government, which has elaborated policies to accommodate the growing number of bicycles and ensure that all users could travel safely.
A real tsunami of cycle paths was born from the problem.
Cycling as an opportunity during the COVID-19 emergency
In September 2020, the Philippine government allocated over $ 22 million in funding for active mobility infrastructure. Money that led to the largest cycle path construction program in the history of the city: nearly 500 kilometers across Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao. To make a comparison, the very good "Cambio" project which promises to give Milan a network of cycle paths of about 750 kilometers is expected by 2035, 13 years from now. In Manila, all of this happened in less than a year.
Obviously it was an undertaking of prohibitive difficulty. To support it, a joint effort of national bodies, philanthropic associations, even a consultancy from the World Bank, which examined the guidelines produced by the Philippine Department of Transportation, was required.
A real call to arms: road safety experts and groups of citizens involved in focus groups have created a "hinge" between the community, legislators and manufacturers. A series of training courses was promoted, modeled on the principles of the Dutch cycle path infrastructure, considered to be the best in the world.
Among the "school desks" there were all: operators of the national government, local authorities, academia, NGOs, private companies. Everyone to learn to improve.
The result? A triumph.
Limited resources, big impact
In just 9 months, Manila was able to build around 500 kilometers of cycle paths on national roads. This multisectoral effort has significantly increased the reputation of the bicycle as a reliable and sustainable means of transport. It empowered citizens, inspired governments and local communities.
With the growth of the bicycle lane network in the Philippines, healthcare workers like Angela now have another safe and healthy way to get around.
"I will continue to use my bicycle to get to and from work and home, even after Covid," says Angela. "Not only will it reduce pollution, but it will also help me keep fit"