In Marikina City, a fifth of the workforce will roll on two wheels and sheer sweat power soon.
That’s because up to 20% of Marikina City residents will be able to ride a bicycle to work when “The Bicycle-friendly City” program of Marikina is completed in 2006. Thanks to a novel idea thought up by the city government, which has introduced a cycling revolution of sorts since 1999.
“Cycling is our answer to the soaring gas prices,” said Mayor Ma. Lourdes C. Fernando. “Bicycles are our provide of affordable mobility.” Aside from lower transport cost over short distances, cycling also reduces vehicle gas emissions thereby leading to better health.
For the project to work, Marikina City built a network of dedicated bike lanes within its boundaries. Serpentine and extensive, the bikeway mostly veers away from the crowded city streets typically snarled with traffic and steaming with fumes. Instead, the bike lanes take a path that even offers a picturesque view of Marikina’s clean rivers, waterways and landscaped gardens.
So far, the city has built 29 kilometers of bike lanes, or 44% of the target. Mayor Fernando says an additional 14 kilometers is set for completion by March 2006. When the entire project is done, one can bike around a network that runs 66 kilometers from end-to-end. The project is funded through a US$1.3-million grant from the World Bank Global Environment Facility (2001) and P15.5 million from the city’s Countrywide Development Fund (2002 to 2004).
The average commuting distance of people to work is roughly two kilometers. It is estimated that 7.5% of the city’s population of half a million whiz around Marikina on bike everyday. It thus comes as no surprise when accidents and theft happen to a biking population of this size.
“We have equipped our peace keeping volunteers with 150 bikes for patrol,” she says. “We have also given out 87,000 bicycle guidebooks to households in the city.”
The guidebook is part of the awareness and education campaign launched by the city to promote the use of bikes and ensure safety. The city also purchased 500 training bikes for learners.
“When the project is completed in 2006, we hope to be the best bicycle-friendly city,” says Mayor Fernando. The city is halfway through this promise.
This program is recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Programs in the 2005 Galing Pook Awards.