Why Bike Lanes Won’t Work . . . Yet

Posted on Posted in 2016-2017

By Christian Dy

There is the long and usual queue of cars in Katipunan Avenue. Heaven help the suckers trapped in flaking cabs. I am fearless, I am free. I am slightly slurred and feel moderately invincible. I’ve had four pints and I have two wheels. In this traffic, I am Mercury among mortals. I have my bony bum on a bike.

“I can’t drive in this condition,” says my friend from Teachers’ Village, post-five-bottles. “And neither can you.” No drinking and driving, he reminds me. After half an hour of waiting for a cab, a lightbulb pings in my head. I borrow his bike.

I manage to make it through the junction of C.P. Garcia and Katipunan without having to put the chain back. Having executed a quick and deft repair, and rubbing the oil off my hands, I proceed to Ateneo’s Gate 3. Only twice am I nearly run over by an SUV. Only once did I have to flourish the universal hand signal for an angry bird. I reach the dorm triumphant over death.

Call me an idiot, and my friends will assure you that you’re not all wrong. Rarely will someone be drunk enough to do what I did. In class-conscious Manila, a bike does not spell “social mobility.” Surely, you should take the person you fancy out to some eating place on at least four wheels. With so many cars that could hit you, would you really want to ride a bike on our main roads? I’m not so sure.

This, dear readers, is the paradox of biking as a traffic solution: We want people to go biking to reduce car use, but people won’t go biking unless there aren’t too many cars on the road to begin with. More bike lanes will not make more bikers. Less cars will.

And yet, there are plans and in any case pleas to expand Katipunan Avenue by eating into the campuses of Ateneo and Miriam. Having dealt with traffic for years, surely, we should be haters of private cars by now? Sure. We hate second-hand Toyotas from Thailand and bank-repossessed Mitsubishis so much, we are laying new pavement for them. Perhaps we need a refresher on incentives theory.

Ateneo’s President was rightest of all when he said, at an open forum, that designating more parking spaces in campus will only encourage car use. Right on, Father Jett, go tell ‘em. You don’t discourage car use by making things easier for cars. Getting less cars by laying more road does not make sense.

I don’t have a total solution for traffic, but I know that we will need the terrors of the earth. Perhaps we could impose heavier car taxes and make private car owners pay for improved public transport. In any event, you should not be allowed to own a car if the roadside is your garage. And while we’re at these, allow me to remember that on my way biking to Ateneo, a jeepney swerved without warning, nearly squishing my bum. Slap Katipunan with a moratorium on the issuance of new licenses for jeepneys. Say it with me: No new jeepneys.

Until we can make these things happen, I will not be biking, bike lane or no bike lane. Unless, of course, if I were on a date. Similar to the couples in Korean soap operas who ride bikes together. It can be an affecting scene. They do it in parks and pedestrian streets, I remember, and not, to be sure, on 12-lane highways. Anyway, if she’s biking, she’s biking with someone else. Don’t ask me why I was drinking. Be safe on the road, my friends.

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