After the awards, what’s next for Iloilo City’s bike culture?

The Iloilo City government is looking for ways to further the biking culture in the metro. (Arnold Almacen photo)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas on Monday admitted that there is still a lot to be done to change the culture and attitudes towards biking despite the double accolades for its cycling-related efforts last week.

During his regular press conference on Monday, Treñas said he was still unsure whether to place protective barriers in bike lanes within City Proper and Molo, which have become parking spots for motor vehicles.

He said that the city is moving full speed ahead with the bike lanes, which are commingled with the sidewalks at the Corazon Aquino Avenue, more commonly known as the Circumferential Road.

The span of bike lanes mixed with sidewalks also covers the portions of the road which are already part of the neighboring towns of Pavia and Oton.

“I think we have the longest protected bike lanes [at Diversion Road and Esplanade], [with] 11 kilometers, and only two Esplanades not being open [to bikes], I think that’s even longer than 11 [kilometers]. We’ve seen in Manila, in some areas, their bike lanes have barriers, and I don’t know if we’ll be able to do that,” the mayor said.

“We pass by Circumferential Road daily, and we’re seeing construction ongoing, and those are protected bike lanes with the entirety both on our side in the city and the sides [covered by] Pavia and Oton,” he added.

As to motorists parking on the bike lanes, he assured that Public Safety and Transportation Management Office (PSTMO) deputies will cite them for violating the city’s bike lane ordinance.

Iloilo City Regulation Ordinance No. 2016-299 penalizes motorized vehicles that pass on or obstruct or excavate designated bike lanes with a P2,000 fine and the issuance of a citation ticket. The City Legal Office is also tasked to file a case within 3 days for the failure of the driver to pay for the citation.

He said that this seemed inevitable, given that the city has only had the bike lanes and the introduction of cycling culture in recent time, signaling to bikers and cycling advocates to be a bit more patient.

“The penalties for parking on bike lanes are a bit high. We have been continuing to enforce this, but our problem is that if we are not around, they [motor vehicle drivers] come back. As a matter of fact, we have photos here. Not only [in Mabini Street], there are also in Delgado [Street] where vehicles park on bike lanes,” the mayor mentioned.

“We will just continue to enforce the ordinance because we have no choice. Unfortunately, motor vehicles keep coming back. It takes a while, unlike in Europe where if people step on bike lanes, [bikes] will hit you because you are there. It will take a while, and we will just keep doing it. We should go on. Part of the I-BIKE culture is even to teach it in the schools,” he added.

Treñas also added that bikers are encouraged to report motor vehicles that use or park on the bike lanes to the PSTMO, and cycling education advocates who wish to teach biking to both children and adults to approach his office for collaboration.

He also touted that the city’s bike lanes are being replicated in other parts of the country, citing their conversations with other local leaders on the sidelines of the Galing Pook Awards last week.

He shared his hope that the bike lanes and other learnings may be replicated in other parts of the Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Economic Development Council (MIGEDC), where he sits as chairperson.

“One of the beauties of Iloilo [City], which even the aid agencies are very happy about, is that when they help Iloilo [City], they do not only help [us] because we are the chair of the MIGEDC. We’re making sure that all the other municipalities [in Iloilo] and the province of Guimaras with whatever learnings that we have, it would also go to the other local governments,” he stated.

The city was one of the Top 10 awardees of the 29th Galing Pook Awards and a Gold Award winner of the 2nd Wheels for Work X Bike Lane Awards held last week.

The city won Gold in the ‘Wheels for Work X Bike Lane Awards’ held in Makati City on Sunday, November 27, in line with the celebration of National Bicycle Day, besting Quezon City and Mandaue City, Cebu, which won Silver and Bronze respectively.

Public Safety and Transportation Management Office (PSTMO) chief Jeck Conlu represented the city government to receive the award.

The recognition was given for its exemplary contribution and initiative in the promotion of Active Transport, which is known in urban planning studies as physical activity undertaken as means of transport.

This was a back-to-back win for the city, after beating the Metro Manila cities of Pasig and Quezon in the inaugural rites last year.

It was also the city’s second accolade for its bicycling culture programs, after the I-BIKE Program was hailed as part of the ten awardees of the 29th Galing Pook Awards in Manila last Tuesday, November 22.

Treñas said that the awards were a validation of the city’s efforts to become more friendly to other forms of transportation.

“By strengthening a bike-friendly metropolis, we are sustaining the momentum in pedaling towards progress being embraced by both locals and visitors.”

The ‘Wheels for Work X Bike Lane Awards’ are given by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Works and Highways and Department of Health.

It acknowledges Local Government Units’ (LGUs) accomplishments and showcases their innovative practices and interventions, highlighting those that best utilize the efficiency and effectiveness of bike lanes.

The awards are pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 1052, s. 2020 declaring the fourth Sunday of November every year as the annual ‘National Bicycle Day’ in the Philippines, to highlight the importance of non-motorized transportation.