Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Why It's Hard to Bike Commute in Manila

5.  The Heat!

With temperatures reaching 90-95 F during the summer, sometimes the weather is too hot to bike commute. For example, the other day I biked to Makati at 2 in the afternoon.  It was so hot and humid that I suffered from heatstroke the next day!  Seriously. 

The only time it's not hot is at night, and that's another problem!

And when it's not summer, it's raining!  Light showers I can take--the Brompton and the Allant both have fenders.  But typhoon-level rain means the bike stays in the garage.

I guess the best time to bike commute in Manila is early in the morning, like 6am. 

4.  No Bike Lanes

Unlike New York, Portland, San Francisco, Davis, London, Taipei, Singapore and other world cities, Manila does not have a bike lane network.  There is no designated lane for us to ride our bikes.  Hence, we have to compete for the same driving space with cars, buses, trucks, jeepneys, tricycles, motorcycles and pedicabs!

So the key to biking in Manila is adopt "defensive biking."  A biker has to be fully aware of his surroundings.  He has to assume that there are vehicles on all his sides.

3.  Unruly Public Transport Drivers / Chaotic Traffic System

Traffic laws are generally not followed in the Philippines.  Drivers don't stick to their lanes; they drive against the flow of traffic; beat the red light; and don't yield or give way.  And the worst offenders are drivers of public utility vehicles.  They won't give you space.  They'll drive you off the road if they can.

This is especially true along Epifanio Delos Santos Ave., C-5 and Commonwealth Ave.  Areas that are relatively safe (compared to EDSA) include Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Roxas Blvd. in Manila (because you can use the service road), and Marikina (because they have a bike lane network over there).

Of course, it's a lot safer to ride your bike during the weekends, especially Sundays, since there are less cars on the road.

2.  No Bike Parking

Even if you successfully commute from point A to point B on your bike, the next problem is where to park it.  Chances are there are no bike racks available in the office, the shopping mall or in school.

And if there are, the bike racks would most probably be placed in an obscure place of the building, like in the basement or at the back, which makes it susceptible to being stolen by bike thieves.

In so far as availability of bike racks are concerned, the Firefly Brigade and other similar cause-oriented groups are providing new bike racks to schools, government buildings and offices, so this is good.

But I think it's equally important to inform and educate the building managers that the racks have to be placed near the entrance, where more people can see the bikes.  This way bike thieves will think twice before they steal a bike.  Otherwise, even if there's a rack, but it's at the back of the mall where no one sees it, a biker would rather keep his bike than leave it there.

1. Social Stigma of being Bike Commuter

Let's face it.  Here in the Philippines, the majority look down at people who commute by bike.  This is because most bike commuters here are construction workers and security guards.  People then associate bike commuting to being poor.  The logic being the biker rides a bike because he does not have enough money to use motorized transport.  It's ridiculous, but it's the sad reality.

And when one uses an obviously expensive road/commuter bike, there's still a stigma because then the biker will just be labeled as being crazy for biking the streets of Manila.

43 comments:

  1. And we're HERE to change all that! Especially Reason # 1!! :D

    Yet another nice article Kris. Pa-repost ha! :D

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  2. Yes, we will change No. 1! Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I've been bike commuting for the past 2 years and I want to share some thoughts:

    * Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Whether you're biking or not, doesn't change the fact that Manila is insanely hot, especially with the summer months approaching. But that shouldn't stop anyone from getting on the bike. Use sunscreen too!

    * On bike parking: Thankfully, major developers (SM, Ayala, Rockwell, Robinsons) have made it a point to include bike parking in their parking lots. It's just too bad that motorcycles use them. Eastwood and Shang have some ways to go. and other commercial areas (esp office buildings) need to offer bike parking. In any case, always inform security if you're parking in that area.

    * on the social stigma: I say, who cares? My respect for the security guards and construction workers has increased immensely simply because they have to go through your reasons everyday.

    And for the poor? I'm not sure who you ride with but the people I know who bike commute hold jobs in Ortigas, Makati, The Fort, QC, UP Diliman, etc. They do it because they care for the environment, it's an alternative form of transportation, and it keeps them fit.

    *On unruly drivers: my biggest pet peeve is cars who don't use their lights when about to make a turn.

    Also, as much as possible stay off the main roads you mentioned as much as possible. You'd be amazed at how many different routes you can find on your bike to get from Point A to B.

    Tell people you bike commute and watch their jaws drop. Whether in amazement or amusement is for you to decide ;) Keep biking!

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  4. You are right, miss! Thanks for the comments. I really do hope more people use their bikes to commute to work, school or the mall.

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  5. I like your blog. Folding bicycle use for work, leisure and travel. Folding bike is a means of mobility. Congratulations on the Blog. My English is not very good. Beautiful bikes. Hugs from Brazil.

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  6. Thanks, Joazinho! Your english is fine!

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  7. Translate it slow .... I think just like you. In Brazil there are tropical climate in summer (40 degrees), there are currently two bike lanes in the city of São Paulo (16 million inhabitants - 120 cyclists killed each year - 1000 motorcyclists killed each year - five car accidents per day), there is a public transport policy, there are now 2,000 places by bicycle in Sao Paulo and finally there is the culture of cycling ... Today only in South America Buenos Aires, Argentina and Bogota, Colombia have a big map of bike routes throughout the city. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZARjUMaOfyQ) --- (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf-5Mw1VAmE&feature=related)

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  8. Joaozinho, we also have a lot of motorcyclists here in the Philippines. And a lot of them die because they drive recklessly and crash into other motorcycles, cars and sometimes telephone posts.

    I'm glad there is a culture of bike commuting in Sao Paolo. We have one too here in Manila, but I believe not as big yet. We are getting there. I hope someday you can visit us here and share your experiences in South America.

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  9. Hi Kris,

    I'm a Filipino who's been living in Australia the past 3 years. I just learned how to bike-commute here in Australia, and I really want to do the same in Manila when I get back this October. Somehow I feel sad to leave all the nice bike routes here in Sydney, thinking that I won't be able to bike in Manila. But after reading your posts, I felt happier and reassured that I could actually try riding my bike in Manila, and that there are many people like you who actually go out and do it. Thanks for inspiring me, and keep your posts coming!

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  10. Hi, Qamatis! You're welcome!
    You'd be surprised how far biking has come a long way since 3 years ago. Sure, it won't be as beautiful as Sidney, but we make do with what we have. Come join us (Firefly Brigade or Tiklop Society of the Philippines) during our October, November and December bike rides later this year!

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  11. hello, Thanks for the really usefull and as Qamatis also said, inspiring blog.
    I will move to manila ( more preciselly around quezon and marikina) in november from europe, where commuting, and riding my bike as a mode of transport and as my favourite sport is a daily activity of mine.
    Until now I did not really know what to expect, whether i will be able to ride my bike or commute by bike in manila, but your blog reassured me. My first thing to do when i arrive will be to get a bike for daily commuting! Keep on biking!

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  12. Bota, hi! Marikina has a decent bike path network! As for Quezon City, well, that's another story. Be careful with our buses and jeepneys. Good luck and join us in our rides when you migrate here!

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  13. Moving from New York City to Makati. I bike commute here. Lots of bikeways but horrendous disrespect for bikers and biker lanes. Along some major streets in NYC, you'll sed white-painted ghost bikes attached to street signs and poles, places where bikers have been hit and died. All that said, it is difficult to bike commute without awareness in our communities. I however do want to bike commute from Makati to Intramuros where I'll be working. I've tried to see a path that I can take but I believe all the service roads and such are within gates developments. Is it easy to get from my point A to point B? Also, I ride a fixed gear bike. Safe? Not safe?

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  14. If you ask me, riding a fixed gear bike in Manila is very dangerous because in addition to cars and buses, one has to deal with trucks, jeepneys and tricycles--vehicles that tend to be very unpredictable on the streets. But a lot of fixed gear users here would disagree with me.

    Makati to Intramuros is not that hard. Just take Buendia or Quirino and then use the bike path along Roxas Blvd. to Intramuros.

    Good luck and hope to see you on the road soon!

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  15. Hi Kris,
    I will relocate to Manila next month and seeking information about living there. I like to bike with my son, for the better health and pleasant exploring of manila. However reading your blog, I wonder whenever biking in Manila is realistic at all. We will live in Bonifiaco Global City; is biking here along the small inside streets and in the green parks (if any park nearby exists) possible? I want also buy my son a bike too, so he can ride outdoor and not only just sitting in school or condo complex. It is much better for kid, I believe. But how about the pollution in Manila? I heard that it is quite a problem in (some areas) Manila and I guess on the roads it is much heavier, am I right?
    Thanks for the info!

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  16. Hi, Sinuhe! If you'll just be biking within the Bonifacio Global City area then there's nothing to worry about. It is relatively a new development, the roads are wide and traffic rules are strictly followed.

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  17. Nice article Kris.
    I am a foreigner studying here in University of Santo Tomas for 2 years already. I just purchased a bicycle (Giant Revel 1 29er) last month to commute to my university. I must say it feels really good helping reduce the pollution, and staying fit and healthy at the same time.

    I must say though that the PUV's and PUB's are far dangerous than you've stated here. It is amazing how it seems as if the road rules are not applicable to them, even in front of the cops, they are shamelessly breaking rules.

    The point number one about social stigma is a very accurate description of the majority of the Filipino mentality. I think it shouldn't bother you what others think.

    As someone in the comments mentioned, I too have more respect for people who are commuting using bicycles.

    Cheers.

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    1. Hi, Jack! Congrats on bike commuting in Manila! I know where you're coming from. Espana Ave. is a whole different story! The jeepneys there are really undisciplined. You always have to be careful of their sudden stops.

      Take care and see you around!

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  18. Hey Kris, I'm glad I stumbled on your site. I'm an American who recently moved to the Kamuning/Tomas Morato area of Quezon City and I plan to start commuting to UP Diliman - about 7 km one way. I'm pretty sure I don't want a folding bike, and your advice on fixed gear bikes has been duly noted. That said, considering my route, how do I go about choosing an appropriate bike for me? I'm fairly certain road bikes are out given the road conditions. All advice: safety, protective gear, rain gear, shorts, bicycle selection, etc., would be greatly appreciated. I'm 178.3 cm (5'10.2") and 84 kg. I'm considering heading down to Cubao to Glorious Ride Bikeshop. They've recommended the Dahon Jack folding mountain bike and 29er mountain bikes. I'm admittedly quite ignorant in this field. Thoughts? Advice?

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    1. Hi, Nathan! From Kamuning to UP I'd avoid passing through East Ave. and Commonwealth Ave. The jeepneys and buses are very reckless. Stick with Kamias and Maginhawa streets.

      The Dahon Jack is okay. I used to own one. It has big tires like a regular bike. It's a folding, but the folding is not to be able to carry it anywhere because it's very bulky. It's folding is only to save up space in your apartment.

      Will you be able to safely to secure your bike at your house and in UP? If yes, then go ahead and get a full size 29er bike. But if you're going to leave your bike outside, then prepare for it to be stolen.

      Tell me what you decide. Hope to see you out on the streets one of these days. Always cycle defensively. Watch out for them buses and jeepneys, AND thos tricycles! Good luck!

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  19. Hi Kris!

    Nice article you got there. I'm planning to bike commute from cainta to makati, do you know where i can safely park my bike around pbcom and cityland herrera tower? Thanks! Ride safe!

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    1. Hi, Arman! Thanks! You can ask the management of both PBCom or Cityland if they have bike parking in their basement. Whatever you decide, do not park your bike outdoors. Mawawala yan.

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  20. Hi Kris,
    Came across your blog when researching biking to work. I used to do it abroad (but in a temperate climate), and I liked the experience. I am thinking of doing it here as well but I have many apprehensions, as you have discussed above.

    My commute is relatively short (Rockwell to Makati CBD)Like you I am a lawyer, so while I don't need to be in suits often, I need to be in business attire and presentable most of the time. My primary worry is that I might be sweaty, smelly, dirty and feel uncomfortable when I get to the office. Any experience having to bike in business attire? Did you have to find a shower near your workplace? :)

    You also mentioned that fixed gear bikes are dangerous. Any reason for this? Is this as opposed to geared bikes?

    I have a mountain bike, but maybe I will need a foldable like yours in the expectation that they don't have bike parking in the office building (and even in my apartment).

    Looking forward to your advice also on where to buy bikes (Brompton etc.)

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    1. Hi, Fukuokadreaming! Rockwell to CBD is not that bad. I think the distance is short enough for you not to reach your office all wet in sweat. I used to commute from Magallanes to CBD and it wasn't a problem. I didn't have to take a shower. Of course, I didn't wear suits. I wore short sleeve barong with white undershirt.

      The time of your commute is also crucial. I biked at around 8am, so its not yet too hot. If you leave Rockwell at 10am, that might be too late. Aside from the hear, the smoke from jeepneys along Makati Ave. might stick to your clothes.

      I'm hesitant about fixed fear bikes in CBD because of the unpredictable traffic. You'd have to stop a lot, and you might have a problem doing that on a fixie. (my personal opinion though. If you can easily control a fixie, then no problem)

      Up to now, there is no local dealer for Bromptons. We get them in Singapore or Hongkong. Be careful with your mountain bike. If its branded, bike thieves might take it. Especially if you leave it at your building's basement parking.

      Good luck on your bike commute, compañero!

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    2. Thanks for the quick reply. I think I'm decided on getting a foldable bike, to avoid the hassle of finding parking. I saw some second hand Bromptons but they were still in the 50,000 pesos range.

      I'd expect to leave around 8:30 maybe so maybe that is still good. Still no pollution at that time? Any advice on where to shop for foldies? If you bought it in HK, did you have it hand carried? packed as luggage?

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    3. I bought mine in Taiwan. The bike came with a box so I just checked it in. Had no problems with customs as I declared it as personal item. I think this way is cheaper than having it shipped to the Philippines. You will surely get taxed in customs. I had a friend who bought a cheap ticket to HK, went there, got his bike and went back on the same day.

      I suggest you contact the dealer in HK: Flying Ball. Order what you want. Then fly there yourself to pick it up.

      Another option is if you have friends or relatives flying in from the US or HK. They can bring it in for you. Good luck!

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  21. Thanks. I think I'll stick with the cheaper ones until I decide this is really for me. I cam across a Dahon Vitesse in the mall. Looks good, but when folded, I didn't see an obvious way to carry it. I am not sure if it is this particular model. I assumed that when folded, the bikes should be easy to carry (ie. to the train, inside the elevator) but I didn't see any handle where to carry.

    By the way this is already off the topic of this post, let me know if I should continue my newbie queries on a different blog post.

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  22. You forgot other two reasons: the road conditions and pollution.
    I've heard of so many bikers receiving their own doses of road rash due to Arizona crater-sized potholes, weird road debris and what not. Plus, there's just too much diesel fumes on the road to justify commuting on the bike by choice (necessity is a different thing as was discussed). You can fix some on the list but the pollution thing? Good luck.

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  23. Hello there! I stumbled upon your blog, and I have a question that I hope you can answer.

    I had just purchased a Surly Karate Monkey and am new to biking, I live somewhere in West Avenue and I was just wondering if it is okay or generally safe to bike going from there to Ateneo de Manila Univeristy? If so, what is the safest path? And what tips can you give me? Thank you for your time!

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    1. Just another note, the reason I am asking is because my colleagues have warned me of the tendency of the people around to steal your bike as you are riding it along the road if they see that your bike looks nice, and I wanted to know if this is true, and if so, how can I avoid this?

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    2. Hi, Thought Thinker. You're a bit lucky because the Karate Monkey looks like a regular bike. Its design is simple, hence not too flashy on the eyes. Put stickers all over the frame. If you're willing, cover the brand markings.

      West Ave. to Ateneo is doable. If I were you, I'd steer clear of passing through depressed areas and stick to the major roads. I'd take the Timog Ave.-Kamias Rd.-Katipunan Ave. route.

      Last, bike commute during the day. And avoid cycling at night.

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  24. Ayus 'to. Ito 'yung mga tala na dapat isipin din ng isang bike commuter dito sa Maynila. Pero hindi naman dapat mawala ang paniniwala natin na magiging malulupit ang mga bikers. Hindi naman din dapat mawala ang paniniwala na gaganda din ang kalye para sa ating mga bike commuters. Masaya akong napadaan ako sa blog mo sir.

    Filipino Bike Commuter mula sa Tondo, Manila.

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    1. Salamat sa pagdaan dito sa blog ko! Sana nga'y gumanda na ang mga daan natin at mabawasan ang lubak. Sana magkaroon ng dedicated bike lanes. Malabo, pero libre naman ang mangarap!

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  25. Such a forward-looking 3 year old post! Thank you for coming up with this article. For the environment, for your well being and for your family... Biking!

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  26. Hi Sir Kris! Would you happen to know a good biking route to work from Remedios Circle to BGC? I'm a newbie to this whole biking thing but wanna try it out starting next week. Really hope to hear from you!

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    1. Hi Meursault! There are many routes you can take. I'd suggest taking Adriatico Street to P. Ocampo, cross South Superhighway into San Antonio. Once you hit Manila South Cemetery, take Metropolitan Ave. that turns into Jupiter. Come out of Paseo de Roxas and turn left to Buendia, up the flyover, cross EDSA and land on 32nd Street in BGC. Hope this helps! Good luck!

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    2. Thank you thank you! Just curious - are bikes allowed on the flyover? Is it safe enough from cars? :)

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    3. Hi, Meursault. Yes, bikes are allowed there. But if you worry, you can cross EDSA by going under Guadalupe bridge via JP Rizal. :)

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    4. Suuuuper thank you Sir! Tried going by Mckinley on the way to Fort today. THAT INCLINE T_T

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  27. Good day, Kris. I intend to bike commute from home to office when I start working next year. I live in Marikina and my office is in Ortigas. Do you know a safe bike route on my way to Ortigas? I have no knowledge on what foldable bike to buy. I've seen foldable bikes at surplus stores. Are they any good? If not, what would you recommend to me? My price range is 6k max. Thank you in advance.

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    1. Hi, RicRos. I'd either take Katipunan to White Plains to Temple Drive to Ortigas; or C5 all the way. If you are not concerned with compactness of fold, I'd recommend getting the Peerless Firebird or any of the Peerless models that fit your budget. A decent Dahon or Tern would set you back past 10k. Good luck!

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    2. After few days of researching, I somewhat gained knowledge of bikes which are of good quality. I figured it would be better for me to buy a quality folding bike because, considering my increasing interest in bike commuting, it's likely that I would later on buy a folding bike of high quality. Got myself an Ori bike. It looks like a Birdy and folds like a Brompton. Thank you sir.

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