Remember the phrase “it’s just like riding a bike?” That has probably become a most common reference (cliche-ish, if you will) for those who’ve done something before and will do its again for the first time after a long time and is feeling scared.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, riding a bike has become a default choice for many commuters afraid of riding public transport (or the lack of it) because of the virus scare. Plus, biking has become an option for exercising for many, groups of bikers blazing the trail of city roads or doing mountainous treks for fun and leisure (don’t forget exercise).
Come to think of it, today will be all about biking because it is World Bike Day. From the bikes with training wheels when we were little, to today’s generation of bikes whether a cruiser, mountain bike, touring or utility, biking should be a leisurely activity that the entire family or friends can enjoy–biking is said to be enjoyable when done in groups, especially on World Bike Day, if possible.
This World Bike Day, experts weigh in on the often unsung benefits of cycling based on experiences in their different organizations and from riding countless hours in the saddle. From the big to the small, here are five not-so obvious reasons to hop on a bicycle today:
Biking helps the economy
Cycling drives economic growth. Not only does it get people to work on time at little to no cost, it also creates jobs in bike tourism, repair shops, and courier services, even restaurants or food stops along the highway, among others.
“Cycling hits so many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said National Bicycle Organization head Benedict Camara. In fact, a study shows that it can positively impact the world’s future by helping save nearly USD $6 trillion globally over the next decade.
A sense of community
Ekong Caruncho is one of those who started biking to work together with friends. While doing their regular rides , it dawned on them to form their own community of riders called “Bike to Work Philippines” to make biking even more fun and to learn from other seasoned riders. “We were still wondering how we can repair our bikes, what routes to take when going to a destination, and other needs. So we agreed to form a group, even just a small one. When many got to know of about us, the small group we wanted just grew exponentially.”
For Aldrin Pelicano of MNL Moves, he shared a similar experience as Caruncho’s. :When people found out about my Facebook page, the followers eventually became friends. They shared with me the same vision of a walking and cycling Metro Manila. The attention helped grow my personal advocacy into a community.
All men are created equal. Just like when on the road, all bikes are equal. When it comes to cycling, it advocates that everyone, regardless of gender or economic status, should be equal. There’s no big bike or small bike, cheap or expensive.
Camara said cycling presents opportunities for a better life in helping people get to work, school or markets. “It is also a gateway to gender equality, especially in societies where females are kept from driving motorized vehicles. Safe infrastructures can encourage more women and girls to use bikes.”
Biking teaches everyone to be kind
Cycling can also teach people to have a more compassionate world view. Pelicano averred that by biking everywhere, it helped him experience what is lacking in terms of policy and infrastructure for the majority of commuters who travel outside of motor vehicles.
For his part, Caruncho strongly urged non-bikers to share the road, respect bike lanes, and be cautious around bikers. He explained that non-bikers also need to “adapt and be kind because biking is new for most of us. So if some of us are slow and uneasy, it means that we’re learning as we go.”
Transforms cities for the better
“Who would have ever imagined,” says Sunny Sevilla of the Move As One Coalition, “having segregated, protected bike lanes along EDSA? It’s starting to happen.”
The COVID-19 pandemic was really the tipping point for the government to address the transport problem. With limited public transport options during the past year, they focused on the capital’s burgeoning population of cyclists. Just recently, the cities of San Juan and Manila partnered with Allianz PNB Life to launch the Allianz Ride Safe Pit Stop and Bike Lanes in the two cities.
Together with these two local government units (LGUs) and other biking groups, the major life insurer advocates for bike-friendly and sustainable cities in the country, starting with Metro Manila.
“Allianz PNB Life promotes bike safety and education with the Ride Safe campaign. Through our various partnerships, we are able to widen and enrich our advocacy to empower more Filipinos,” said Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer Gino Riola.
The ultimate goal is not for cycling to be considered an alternative, but rather a mainstream mode of transportation.
“At Allianz, cycling is not just a way to get through the pandemic. It is a long-term investment towards a healthier, more progressive Philippines, too,” said Riola.