Rise in Filipino cyclists calls for improved safety measures, study reveals
The recent road rage incident involving a dismissed former policeman and a cyclist has highlighted a key issue in road safety – the vulnerability of cyclists. A significant portion of the population, approximately 36%, utilize bicycles as their main mode of transportation, surpassing the mere 6% of households that own cars.
According to the Social Weather Stations’ First Quarter 2023 Survey, conducted from March 26 to 29, 2023, an estimated 10 million Filipino households own bicycles. Notably, 56% of these households are compelled to cycle primarily to save on transport expenses.
Bicycles play a pivotal role in enabling independent travel for Filipinos, helping them combat poverty and deal with high inflation. With public transport often unreliable or insufficient, bicycles ensure access to essential services, sustain employment, and facilitate education. The increased use of bicycles is not only economically beneficial, but it also contributes to pollution-free and fossil fuel-free travel, alleviating vehicle congestion and combating climate change.
However, there is growing concern over the safety of cyclists. The absence of physical barriers on bike lanes puts cyclists in constant danger from encroaching motor vehicles. This issue was starkly highlighted in the recent road rage incident. With some cities having removed bike lane bollards, leaving only painted demarcations, the risk to cyclists is amplified. It’s been observed that painted bike lanes, like pedestrian ‘zebra’ crossings, are often ignored by motorists, despite traffic rules and penalties.
The need for safe infrastructure and low speed limits to compensate human error is emphasised by road safety experts worldwide. They advocate for a ‘safe system’ approach. Globally recognised road safety guidance insists on barrier-protected or grade-separated bike lanes to safeguard cyclists. A study conducted over 13 years by the University of Colorado Denver and the University of New Mexico, involving 12 major cities, revealed that such protected bike lanes dramatically reduced road fatalities and serious injuries for all road users.
Conversely, painted bike lanes showed no improvement in safety. In fact, they were found to be even more dangerous than having no demarcation at all. The study concluded that painted bike lanes are unsafe for cyclists and should not be considered as a viable option.
For roads with limited space, where cyclists and pedestrians are forced to share space with motor vehicles, road safety guidance proposes a ‘slow street’ designation with a maximum speed limit of 20km per hour. Additionally, ‘self-regulating’ or traffic calming infrastructure, such as speed bumps or raised crossings, is recommended to manage the speed of motor vehicles.
Decisions to downgrade or remove bike lanes prioritize the convenience of a minority of private car users over the safety of the majority who rely on bicycles. These decisions inadvertently value the time of car users higher than the lives and welfare of cyclists. Moreover, it’s overlooked that four-wheeled motor vehicles are the primary cause of road congestion, injuries, fatalities, and environmental pollution.
The removal of protected bike lanes would not alleviate motor vehicle congestion. Instead, it would expose cyclists to a higher risk of road accidents. Officials are urged to reconsider their decisions, as any future cyclist fatalities or injuries on painted bike lanes would inevitably be a stain on their conscience.
Source: Manila Times