Since my new office moved its location from Makati City to Pasig City this October, I’ve gotten back to my bike2work scheme, thanks to the office’s generous support for bike commuters like me by providing shower facilities and ample parking space courtesy of the building admin. From two bike warriors, by this week I’m counting at least four of us who have started to bike-commute from our homes! That’s not to mention several more who by now are considering and saving up for their own bikes to bring to the office. For someone who pushes and advocates bike commuting in Manila, this is surely good news, and is something that I definitely, wholeheartedly appreciate.

The thing is, unlike other countries which have waaaaay better cycling infrastructure, Manila’s metropolis has a lot of shortcomings especially in terms of support for bike commuting. For one, the roads are mostly car-centric, and that there are several hazards on the road that the usual cyclist needs to be aware of.

Case in point: The stretch of Ortigas Avenue along the town of Cainta, Rizal and Pasig City.

The extinction of multi-purpose sidewalks

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Road widenings have become the easy solution for clogged-up thoroughfares such as Ortigas Avenue. There used to be a tree-lined sidewalk at this particular area near Ever Gotesco mall (now SM City East Ortigas). It was about two meters wide, enough for pedestrians and bikers to go through to escape the heavy traffic. A road widening project was eventually made to remove this sidewalk completely to provide another lane to the vehicles plying Ortigas Avenue! The road may have been widened, but there is no more sidewalk that pedestrians can safely use. The heavy traffic never really went away, though.

For the bike commuter going through here, this project that was never completed [properly!] introduced a lot of problems. I can attest to this because I encounter them each and every time I bike-commute. Aside from the disappearance of the sidewalk with trees, several more issues remained.

The asphalting job that was never completed

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Talk about several different layers of asphalt and concrete that pose a threat to bikers

A fresh layer of asphalt was poured on top of the old concrete road when this project was started. Fine. The thing is, years after all that widening effort and drainage improvements, the extended part of the road still remained unasphalted! It really reminds me of Banaue’s rice terraces, but I’m certain that the terraces look and feel much more relaxing.

Banaue rice terraces, Ifugao, Philippines. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

For bike commuters, it’s dangerous to have these kinds of uneven surfaces, especially those who are on folding bikes, because they can easily get knocked over if they happen to switch from one layer to another.

THOSE drainage covers from hell

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The infamous rectangular drainage covers of Ortigas Avenue

So there’s value added to that road widening project — by widening the underlying drainage as well. Just look at that. Hideous. Every three to five meters there’s a group of rectangular drainage covers that isn’t level with the rest of the road. Definitely makes biking along this stretch hellish, especially when the bus and jeepneys force you to veer to the right side of the road. I’ve gotten several annoying instances of flat tires due to small screws, stapler wires, and others that happen to be just beside these covers. Voila! Instant hassle because of an instant flat tire.

Bike commuting in Manila is quite manageable, in my opinion. There are risks, of course, but definitely calculated ones whose dangers we can minimize. However, we, advocates of biking and a better environment in general, would quite appreciate seeing improved conditions on roads we cycle through. I hope to bring this to the attention of the concerned local government units of Cainta and Pasig, as well as the Public Works department, so that these hazards can be lessened, and everyone else can benefit.