On Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced that its Metro Manila Council had approved a resolution banning e-bikes and e-trikes from the most important roads in the metropolis, effectively making these modes of transportation unviable and unattractive. This is a very bad decision from so many angles.
We have the world's worst traffic in Metro Manila, in large part because we continue to embrace and intensify car-centric approaches that prioritize four-wheeled motor vehicles so that they can move faster on city roads (even though car owners are only a small minority and private cars are the least efficient users of road space).
What experience has taught us over many decades is that focusing our efforts on accommodating more private cars is counterproductive because of the phenomenon of "induced demand." We end up attracting even greater motor vehicle use, leading to more traffic and pollution for everyone.
However, this is exactly what the MMDA is doing with its ban on light electric vehicles — a move that encourages increased car-dependence by limiting the use of more efficient and environment-friendly travel options. No wonder we are the world champions in traffic.
The MMDA uses road safety to justify its decision. It argues that the two-wheelers and three-wheelers pose a danger to the lives of drivers and passengers. What the MMDA fails to mention is the fact that the biggest killers on our roads are four-wheeled motor vehicles. You seldom hear of bicycles or tricycles killing anyone in a road collision; rather, in the road crashes involving bicycles and tricycles, they are likely the victims.
If cars and motorcycles are involved in over 95 percent of road crashes (bicycles, tricycles and e-bikes accounted for only 3.7 percent of Metro Manila road crashes in 2022), shouldn't cars and motorcycles be the target of the MMDA ban?
To have a livable Metro Manila with better mobility, less traffic and less pollution, the MMDA needs to abandon its obsession with serving the needs of private motor vehicles and focus instead on facilitating more efficient, environment-friendly and inclusive travel modes — public transport, walking and cycling, including electric bicycles, tricycles and kick-scooters.
The strategy should be to make these efficient travel modes safe and attractive in comparison with using a private motor vehicle so that car owners leave their cars at home. All over the world, this is the proven and sustainable solution for road congestion. As more people shift to public transport, walking and cycling, private cars can move faster with fewer cars on the road.
Globally, light electric vehicles (two- and three-wheeled bikes and electric kick-scooters) are the fastest-growing segment of the electric vehicle market — delivering many positive outcomes. On the environment front, light electric vehicles are zero-emission, zero-carbon and generally noise-free.
They enable us to have cleaner air and healthier environments. With a much lighter carbon footprint, they also help fight climate change. They are also very energy efficient, many times more than an electric car. For example, it has been estimated that the battery capacity of one medium-sized electric car is sufficient to supply the battery requirements of 125 electric bicycles and 180 electric kick-scooters.
Light electric vehicles are also empowering. Today, electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers are the best option for many who need reliable personal transportation, but are unable to afford a car or motorcycle. They are very popular with working mothers with multiple care duties and have many trips to take in a day.
For persons who are physically challenged, light electric vehicles enable the cyclist to combine human and electrical energy in order to travel longer distances and handle more difficult terrain. This allows the cyclist to remain mobile and active even as one's physical abilities diminish with age or infirmity. For this reason, electric bicycles and tricycles are already helping many senior citizens and persons with disability travel further and longer around their localities.
Light electric vehicles are also highly efficient users of road space. The same road space occupied by a medium-sized car would be able to comfortably accommodate two to three electric kick-scooters or bicycles. This means that the same road space would be able to move many more people if devoted to bicycles and light electric vehicles instead of cars — enabling the road to achieve higher productivity and a higher economic return.
For the above reasons, the MMDA resolution to ban light electric vehicles from major roads sets us backwards. It is also fundamentally unjust and likely unlawful, because the decision implies that wealthier Filipinos who ride cars have a superior right to our roads even though all Filipinos pay taxes to fund road infrastructure.
Today, only 6 percent of households nationwide and only about 11.5 percent of households in Greater Manila are car owners. Why should this small privileged minority enjoy the exclusive use of our busiest roads while other road users are left out?
If the MMDA were truly concerned about the safety of road users and the number of deaths from road crashes, why has it not called for strict compliance with speed limit requirements under the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, which prescribes a maximum speed limit of 20 kilometers per hour (kph) on "crowded streets," defined as "streets within a 500-meter radius of schools, public transportation terminals, markets, government buildings, churches and other places of worship, recreational places, facilities frequented by the youth, parks, shopping malls, movie houses, hotels, restaurants."
A 20-kilometer-per-hour speed limit on all national roads under the MMDA's responsibility will make these roads safe for pedestrians, cyclists and users of light electric vehicles. Shouldn't we be taking this approach instead?
MMDA, you already know that the outcome of your ban on light electric vehicles is that the sales of fossil-fueled cars and motorcycles will increase, followed by more traffic, more carbon, more air and noise pollution, and more road crashes. Is this what you really want?
Source: Manila Times