A new bill filed in Senate seeks to establish biking and walking as safe, viable modes of mobility now that COVID-19 quarantine measures continue to limit the availability of public transport in the country.
Senate Bill No. 1518, also known as the ‘Safe Pathways Act,’ proposes the creation of linked pop-up bicycle lanes and emergency pathways to form a “people-oriented and pedestrian-friendly” network that will connect people to essential destinations during the pandemic, while ensuring that physical distancing is maintained. Such a measure will lessen the number of people crowding in trains, public utility vehicles, and terminals. In the long run, it will also help decongest roads, reduce air pollution, and improve the health of citizens.
The bill is similar to the ‘Stay Healthy Streets’ initiative in Seattle, Washington, where over 30km of streets have been closed to traffic for the exclusive use of walkers, joggers, and cyclists. Initially a measure to augment mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has now been made a permanent part of the Seattle cityscape.
Under the Safe Pathways Act, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) shall work with local government units (LGUs) to establish pop-up bike lanes and emergency pathways along local roads that lead to frequented destinations. This network will be off-limits to motorized vehicles during peak hours, and may only be accessed by pedestrians, cyclists, and users of other non-motorized vehicles.
Parking spaces for bicycles and non-motorized vehicles shall also be set up in public spaces, government offices, schools and workplaces, and commercial establishments. For the long term, the DOTr and the DPWH are to prepare for the permanent adoption of established bike lanes, emergency pathways, and other pedestrian- and bike-friendly infrastructure.
“As we adjust to the new normal, it is inconceivable to just go back to the way we were,” said Senator Pia Cayetano, who authored the bill. “This health crisis forces us to rethink our way of life and explore changes that will improve our overall health and quality of life. Planning our cities and transport system require a Futures Thinking frame of mind.”
Related bills and projects include the ‘National Bicycle Act of 2019,’ which seeks to create policies, infrastructure, and facilities that will integrate bicycles into our transport options, and the EDSA Greenways Project, which will give rise to elevated walkways in the metro. The latter has already been approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
What do you think? Would you switch to walking and cycling if there were more bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways in the metro?