Cycling is a powerful vehicle for various advocacy and activism, according to Climate Reality Project Philippines.
Cycling can be a tool for advocating sustainable and inclusive mobility, as well as other intersecting social and environmental issues, advocates said during the 30th episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series entitled “Marching on Two Wheels: Bicycle as a Vehicle for Activism.”
“Riding a bike sends a signal to the policymakers that you want something different. It sends a signal to the city to reimagi itself towards a cleaner and more inclusive environment,” Julio Anton Nemenzo, Energy Researcher of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), said during the webcast’s special World Bike Day episode.
Celine Tabinga, Urban Transitions Analyst of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) and National Coordinator for the Mobility Awards, added that cycling protests highlight the plight of those who are underserved by the current transport system.
Bicycle as a symbol of democracy
In the country’s current car-centric mobility system, roads are designed mainly to accommodate private vehicles notwithstanding the 88% of Filipino households in Metro Manila who do not own cars.
As a working-class vehicle, Nemenzo emphasized the global appeal of bikes to carry pro-people advocacies.
“We saw people use the bike to demand free testing and stop the killing of farmers and activists. We also saw during the pandemic this tactical urbanism that was initiated by Bikers United Marshals. Commonwealth, before, is a very notorious thoroughfare. They established pop-up bike lanes using water containers, bollards, and signages [along Commonwealth] to ensure that the people who have no options, no public transits, can still go to work using bicycles.” Giorgino Naval mentioned.
Naval works for Move as One Coalition, which advocates for a more inclusive public transportation system in the Philippines.
More than being the most basic and affordable mode of transportation, Naval also shared that biking is a form of protest against the status quo—against systems, policies, and actions that (1) neglect commuters and their supposed safe road spaces to satisfy the whims of private vehicle owners, and (2) sacrifice waterways to establish freeways along rivers.
For Jessica Reyes, cycling is also a vehicle for advocacies on gender equity and women empowerment. She co-founded Women Bikers for Safe Spaces to raise awareness on gender-related challenges while promoting safe spaces for women in different environments.
While the pandemic prompted the ‘bike boom’ wherein citizens use bicycles to and from work, misogynistic remarks also proliferated.
“Nakita namin sa mga online spaces na maraming mga bastos o manyak na comments na naka-target sa ating mga kababaihan na gusto lamang pumadyak papunta sa kanilang paroroonan,” Jessica Reyes shared.
Being a cyclist herself, Reyes discussed the apprehensions of women about cycling. For one, catcalling instills fear among women to cycle on roads. She added that objectifying women should stop because each one has an individuality that transcends gender roles set by society.
Cycling as a means to advocate for environmental justice issues
The transportation sector is the largest and fastest-growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally. Evidently, the country’s transport system has been using large amounts of fossil fuels and petroleum products, which are considered the primary cause of global warming.
Tabinga explained that cycling and walking can contribute to abating greenhouse gas emissions. She emphasized the need for the country to reimagine its transport system in a way that ensures a green recovery from the pandemic, responds to the need to transition our transport system to a low-carbon sector, and caters to the majority of the people who do not have cars.
“Biking is the perfect medium for energy and environment advocacies,” Nemenzo said.
In his work as an energy researcher, Nemenzo shared how other countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Japan, Pakistan, and India used the power of cycling to advocate for a fossil-free future and just transition to renewable energy.
Wven local communities in Metro Manila, Camarines Norte, Batangas, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro, are using cycling as a form of protest to “resist things that we don’t want and to advocate things we want,” he added.
Engaging the private sector to promote sustainable urban mobility
Nowadays, Filipinos are using bicycles to do errands which the private sector should consider upon preparing for their sustainable goals.
“Provide bike plans instead of providing company cars. That is an immediate reduction in carbon emission which a lot of companies are doing right now. Encourage your employees to bike. Make your establishments more bike-friendly,” Naval explained pointing out that companies should assess the trend and commonalities of employee transportation.
Nemenzo agreed that all establishments, whether public or private, should be accessible to all kinds of commuters.
“Yung mga establishments, bigyan natin ng importansya yung mga cyclists natin. Eto rin yung dapat natin iamplify, na hindi naman lahat ng nagbabike ay mahirap. Or kahit yung mahirap dapat binibigyan din sila ng importansya. Dapat tayong lahat ay may freedom to use spaces. Hindi dapat natin minamaliit yung ating mga kababayan,” Reyes remarked as she called on the private sector to stop looking at cyclists as nuisance instead empower them by giving their rightful spaces.
Role of government in achieving sustainable and inclusive transport in the country
Given the economic, social, and environmental benefits of making our cities walkable, bikeable, and more sustainable, the next set of leaders should direct efforts toward achieving a more inclusive transport system in the country.
To gain an understanding of the needs and challenges of commuters, Naval noted that government officials should experience first-hand the realities of commuting and using public transportation.
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“Try to bike and ride public transportation and you can see how it works. If you are here to serve, you should see what the people endure every day,” he added.
Nemenzo believed that personal travel experiences using public transit, coupled with meaningful consultations with commuters and cyclists, would lead to substantial efforts and genuine actions from the government.
As the administration promotes unity in all its actions, Reyes noted that the government should listen to the advocacies of civil society groups and active mobility communities. She added that local government units must draft united and streamlined plans to establish efficient road connections and road infrastructures.
The Climate Reality Project Philippines is a non-profit organization dedicated to using strategic communications and grassroots strategies to educate government and private sector leaders and the public about the urgency and solvability of the
climate crisis. It is home to a collaborative, diverse, and multi-disciplinary community of more than 1,800 Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders innovating to drive real climate solutions from the ground up.