Let me use the bike lanes in peace

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

As someone who bikes to work, bike lanes are our safe spaces, they are the only parts of the roads where we can be able to stride freely without the fear of getting into an accident or being cited for traffic violations. But why can’t motor vehicle drivers in Iloilo City understand that?

I’ve been using my bicycle since I bought it in January last year, and I’ve been able to travel from one place to another without having the need to wait for public transport.

But the problem that I’ve been facing since being able to use my bike last year isn’t something of my doing—it’s the cars blocking the city’s bike lanes.

Let me tell you a particular instance which happened just last Tuesday, March 1.

I was on my way to the downtown area to buy something for an event for yesterday. My ride was along the “university loop” was actually smooth—until it got to the Iloilo Central Elementary School.

There was a red car parked in front of the school’s gate. The lights were blinking, so I thought that it was just temporary, and I just stopped to wait.

But minutes passed and I haven’t moved an inch. So, I had to do the logical thing, to move left of the way, which was already outside of the bike lane area.

I knocked on the window of the car to tell the driver that he was parking in a bike lane, which he refuted, “I’ll be leaving shortly,” as if he just wanted to continue being there. Wanting to avoid conflict, I went back to the bike lane.

Until two more vehicles were parked, in front of the building beside the elementary school. The driver of the red car who I just talked to minutes earlier stopped to ask me, “Where are you from?” As if he was asking me if I was a traffic cop. I was wearing my press uniform and ID, which thankfully were hidden from his view. He just scoffed and went along.

Instinctively, I went back to the bike lane, which continues right until the business center at J.M. Basa Street near a hotel and some private and government banks.

But alas, I encountered another “temporary parking” vehicle at the Casa Plaza beside the Atrium building. This time, I actually shouted at the driver to move out of the way, but he ignored me and just entered the shop where he was supposed to buy.

I was able to just wait it out this time and continue on my biking journey.

For me, Tuesday’s biking saga was my last straw, and is what pushes me to write this column now.

One member of a biking Facebook group where I belong suggested that I report the obstructing cars to the authorities—which I didn’t do, because I knew that mostly they would only get a slap on the wrist along with some fines which they could actually afford.

Another advice was to just move to the left. That would be the logical thing to do, but I think about my safety often, having had accidents on a bike while I was growing up in Cavite, which is why I wouldn’t take that advice as well, and just wait for cars to clear the way. If I move to the left, and encounter an actual accident, chances are I would be the one blamed because I didn’t “stay in my lane”.

Yet another advice, this time from other bike users I’ve talked to, suggested that I maximize the use of the Esplanade bike lanes. But those are actually built more for recreational bikes and not for utility ones like mine. Also, bike lanes aren’t ideally paved with bricks, as seen in cities in The Netherlands, which is where many look to for successful cycling infrastructure.

On a regular basis, the city’s bike lanes, including the shark teeth which should help us cross major intersections, are always, if not often, being ignored by motor vehicle users. They are more than often being used as shoulders for temporary parking, loading and unloading, and a shoulder for overtaking.

But bike lanes were built for a safe passageway for bikes, which are only powered by pedals and not by motors. As bikers, they are our safe space, and they are not just for parking or taking over when convenient.

I wish that the city government would take time to look at this piece, and if they are serious about making this city a “bike-friendly city” or even a “bike capital”, they should make sure that the spaces they made for bikers would be respected by other road users.

After all, the use of the roads is to transport people, not to serve as temporary parking lots or convenience ways.

I love biking, and I love this city, but I just want to enjoy the use of the bike lanes.