Inclusive Cycling Policies for All

Iloilo City’s participation in the “Bilang Siklista” bike count on June 5 is a commendable effort toward understanding cycling trends and improving infrastructure for cyclists.

This initiative, driven by over 40 volunteers from various sectors, aims to collect data on public bike use, gender, helmet use, and cycling movement trends. The data is invaluable for city planners and policymakers to justify funding for public infrastructure like bike lanes and improved sidewalks.

However, while the initiative is laudable, it raises a critical point: the importance of ensuring that policies and infrastructure for cycling are inclusive and cater to all cyclists, not just the affluent hobbyists.

The composition and leadership of bike councils or bodies in local government units, like Iloilo City, should reflect those who use bikes as their primary mode of transportation. These councils should be led by true advocates of cycling who understand the daily challenges faced by ordinary cyclists, rather than by hobbyists who can afford expensive bikes and advanced gear.

Not all people who use bikes and cycling lanes are affluent. Many cyclists depend on their bicycles for daily commuting, often because they have no other means of transportation. For these individuals, cycling is not a leisure activity but a necessity. Therefore, cycling policies and infrastructure must address the needs of this diverse group of users.

The distinction between cycling enthusiasts and daily commuters is significant. Enthusiasts often have the means to afford high-end bikes and may have different needs and perspectives compared to those who rely on bicycles for their livelihood or daily commute. This disparity can lead to a misalignment in priorities, with infrastructure catering more to leisure biking rather than practical, everyday use.

The data from the 2022 bike count in Iloilo City revealed that 95.6% of cyclists were male, highlighting a gender disparity that needs addressing. Furthermore, only 17.16% of cyclists wore helmets, pointing to safety issues that require urgent attention. These statistics are not just numbers; they reflect the real experiences and challenges faced by cyclists. Thus, policies should aim to make cycling safer and more accessible for everyone, regardless of gender or socioeconomic status.

It’s essential to recognize that not all cyclists are affluent. Many individuals use bicycles out of necessity, not choice. For them, cycling is an affordable, environmentally friendly mode of transportation that alleviates the burden of rising fuel costs and unreliable public transport. Therefore, cycling infrastructure should be inclusive, ensuring that bike lanes are safe, well-maintained, and connected to key areas such as workplaces, schools, and residential neighborhoods.

Inclusivity also means engaging with diverse voices within the cycling community. By involving daily commuters and true cycling advocates in decision-making processes, local governments can gain valuable insights into the real needs and preferences of cyclists. This participatory approach can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions that enhance the overall cycling experience.

Architect Wilfredo Sy Jr. of the city government highlighted the importance of using the collected data to justify funding for public infrastructures like bike lanes and improved sidewalks. This is a crucial step forward. However, the success of these initiatives will largely depend on the continued collaboration between the local government and the community it serves.

Even as Iloilo City’s participation in the “Bilang Siklista” census is laudable, the next step should be to ensure that the leadership and advisory bodies within bike councils are representative of all cyclists, particularly those who rely on bicycles for their daily commute.

Inclusive policies and infrastructure that cater to the needs of all cyclists, not just the affluent, will pave the way for a safer and more equitable cycling environment.

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