The budget’s been earmarked and the project has been awarded to winning bidders—so why the delay?
The biking community has come together and released a statement on Feb. 2 urging the government to start building immediately the 306 kilometers of protected bike lanes in Metro Manila specified in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act. The project was allocated ₱814 million.
“Bayanihan 2 was signed into law on Sept. 11, 2020. Almost five months later, though, we have yet to see a single kilometer of protected bike lanes funded by Bayanihan 2 built on EDSA and other national roads in Metro Manila.”
The bike groups point out that the national government has already awarded the project to winning bidders (as stated in the President’s Report on Jan. 4) but construction has yet to begin.
They are calling for immediate action on the part of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DPWH and DILG get the second biggest cut of the national budget at P695.7 billion (15.4 percent).
The bike organizations’ statement continues, “This delay is unacceptable. It is a slap in the face of millions of hardworking Filipinos frontline and essential workers—taxpayers all—who have taken to riding their bicycles to work to cope with the lack of public transport during the lockdown. These everyday heroes have been tirelessly battling the COVID-19 crisis and working to feed their families and to get our economy back on its feet. The least the government can do is to give them protected bike lanes to keep them safe on the road.”
The statement stresses that the pandemic—with less traffic and fewer people on the roads while lockdowns are in place— offers an “unparalleled opportunity to transform the country’s roads into fairer, safer, and more inclusive infrastructure now and for generations to come. Please don’t waste it.”
Citing an SWS survey, the group says nine out of 10 Filipinos “believe that ‘roads in Philippine cities and municipalities will be better off if public transportation, bicycles, and pedestrians are given priority over private vehicles.’”
Using the hashtags #ProtectedBikeLanesNOW #MovePeopleNotCars, the group says, “This will be one of the defining issues in the 2022 elections.”
On Feb. 1, the Senate approved with 23 votes Senate Bill No. 1582 or the Safe Pathways Act, which provides for a network of safe pathways for people who prefer to walk, bike, or use other non-motorized vehicles in Metro Manila roads.
Primary author Senator Pia Cayetano said, “This is good news to the biking community, which has grown significantly during this time of COVID. More people are now using a bicycle to go to work and in their daily travels. It is important that there is a network of bicycle lanes to ensure continuity through various localities, and the safety of bikers.”
Under the Safe Pathways Act, LGUs will identify and create a network of bicycle lanes connecting to essential destinations such as workplaces, medical facilities or groceries, schools, banks, and other similar places.