Iloilo to Oton bikeway? Yes, Iloilo City’s bikelane network will be stretched to the town of Oton – the first town in the First District of the Province of Iloilo that is likewise experiencing an economic boom.
What was once a vision – Iloilo City linking up to Oton through the Iloilo River – has now become a reality. It is called the Iloilo North Avenue Project with P803-million fund support from the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The Iloilo to Oton bikeway will further enhance the position of Iloilo as the country’s bike capital or branded as #IloiloBikeCapitalPH among mobility advocates, Iloilo bikers, and the tourism sector.
Iloilo to Oton Bikeway through Iloilo River
The Iloilo to Oton bikeway is only one of the component integrated in the P803-million Iloilo River North Avenue project.
The infrastructure will have a 4-lane road starting from the end of the current Iloilo River Esplanade 1 and 2 in Molo district to Brgy. Cagbang, Oton or totaling 5.5-kilometers.
In his keynote message online during the Iloilo Investment Forum held last December, Sen. Franklin M. Drilon shared that the road infrastructure development will have an integrated walkway and bikeway on each side and with bridges crossing the river.
Read related article: #IloiloBikeCapitalPH a success model for LGUs
Unlike the over-publicized Iloilo Guimaras Bridge by the Duterte administration, which, by the way, remains in the drawing board, the low-key Iloilo North Avenue Project will be realized soon. The Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH Region VI) has announced that the work will commence early April this year.
The project is projected to ease traffic congestion in the city, enhance existing road network, improve connectivity, and help for a more efficient daily commute among workers who reside outside the metropolis.
Its impact will be long lasting for generations to come, especially on the biking population, which increased exponentially at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Iloilo City’s expanding bikelane network
The rise of biking culture in Iloilo City started with the construction of a 4-kilometer protected bike lane along the Sen. Benigno Aquino Avenue.
The 10-lane Sen. Aquino Ave. commonly referred as the Diversion Road is Iloilo City’s main road artery. It stretches from the University of the Philippines Visayas (Iloilo City Campus) up to the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan town or a 15-kilometers distance which passes the town of Pavia and parts of Sta. Barbara.
The Iloilo City business district are interconnected through the Aquino Avenue. This is where you will find malls, condos, call centers, hotels, restos, cafes, and high-rise commercials establishments. Since it was constructed with a service road, a protected bike lane, and walkway, the Diversion Road has become a major venue for health advocates and leisure biking.
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The bike lane was further expanded after Esplanade 1 and 2 were extended up to Esplanade 9, this time going towards the city proper and Muelle Loney port area where the Iloilo City Hall, Plaza Libertad, Freedom Grandstand, and various heritage structures are located.
The Esplanade through the Iloilo River connected the districts of Molo, Mandurriao, La Paz and down to the City Proper area making it a major attraction among the Ilonggos, travelers to Iloilo, and visitors and guests.
The longest linear park is an area of the city where joggers, brisk walkers and bikers converge early morning and late afternoon up to early evening. It has become the favorite hangout place of the Ilonggos to enjoy nature, feel the breeze, meditate, share intimate moments among lovers, and to take photos of its magnificent sunrise and radiant sunsets.
These projects were realized because of the advocacy led by Sen. Drilon in 2014, together with the local government, private sector and with the cooperation of the Ilonggos.
During the 1st Bicycle Day celebration in 2014 Sen. Drilon shared a message saying, “I agree with every Filipino who has made biking their means of transport and hobby and that not only it promotes a healthier lifestyle, it can also provide some of the answers to our transportation and environmental woes.”
Biking grew under Treñas and during the pandemic
Since then, Iloilo’s biking population have grown and bike events became a daily fair among Ilonggos.
In 2019, the Ilonggo biking community have found an ally in Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas when he embraced bike development as a priority, among many other priorities.
Mayor Treñas pushed biking further by initiating a combination of public-public and public-private partnerships resulting to Iloilo City receiving various bike grants and donations from government leaders, corporations and individuals. These support poured in during the pandemic lockdown.
Treñas integrated biking as a major theme in art and various public art and murals flourished across the city.
The effort by Mayor Treñas invited the attention of bikers, road safety, and road sharing advocates which humbled the chief executive declaring that more is needed to be done and a sustainable program needs to be developed.
The Iloilo to Oton bikeway under the Iloilo River North Avenue will for sure solidify the reputation of Iloilo as #IloiloBikeCapitalPH – an effort that is worth emulating across the country.