As Kagay-anons embrace bicycles during pandemic, CDO prompted to create bike lanes

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 16 Nov) – The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many Kagay-anons to shift to bicycle as their mode of transportation to work, prompting authorities to create a lane for bikers.

With vehicles parked on the sides of a highway in Opol town in Misamis Oriental, enthusiast bikers are forced to use the main road. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Benedicto Ramiro, administrative officer of the Roads and Traffic Administration (RTA), said the pilot project extended from Rodelsa Circle to Velez Street in front of the Vicente de Lara Park.

“That is a total of two kilometers along the city’s busiest street,” Ramiro said.

The temporary bike lanes are on both sides of Velez Street.

Another bike lane was carved out along Vamenta Boulevard in Barangay Carmen.

The two lanes along Velez Street and Vamenta run parallel to each other.

“The carving of more biking lanes were just halted because the Department of Public Works and Highways in Region 10 has yet to complete their projects on the proposed streets,” Ramiro said.

Eventually, the bike lanes would extend from Barangay Pagatpat to Barangay Carmen in the city’s first district for a total of 39 kilometers, he said.

In the city’s second district, Ramiro said the bike lane will start at the Cagayan de Oro port area in Barangay Macabalan and wind up all the way to Barangay Macasandig for a total of 38 kilometers.

There is a proposal, too, to have bike lanes to link Barangay Bugo to Barangay Bonbon using the city coastal road system.

Ramiro said Cagayan de Oro, like other urban centers in the country, is embracing bicycles in their urban planning.

He said that 29 percent of the 110,000 labor force in the city have resorted to biking to their places of work.

Lacking spaces for parking, food delivery riders leave their bicycles at Plaza Divisoria in downtown Cagayan de Oro City. Photo taken 10 Nov 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“Many workers think biking is the safest way to go to work rather than commuting where you are prone to COVID-19 infections,” Ramiro said.

Aside from workers who rely on their bikes to commute to work, many residents have turned to cycling for recreation and healthy lifestyle, he noted.

The rise of the number of cyclists prompted the city government to plan for more bike lanes in the next five years.

“Cagayan de Oro is reshaping our urban infrastructure by building safe bicycle lanes and parking lots that can sustain a healthier environment,” Ramiro said.

The new bike lanes in the city drew mixed reactions from cyclists and workers who bike to work.

Kristian Dave Achondo, graphic designer for local newspaper Mindanao Gold Star Daily, said he started biking to work when the COVID-19 pandemic started in April 2020.

“I found biking to work very convenient and it is safer than commuting in public utility vehicles,” the 31-year old Achondo.

It takes only 30 minutes to weave through the traffic to his place of work in Barangay Lapasan from his house in Barangay Macasandig, eight kilometers apart.

He said, however, that going through the designated bike lanes along Velez Street is a different story.

Achondo said cycling in the biking lanes is like driving through a maze of parked vehicles and rude jeepney drivers even as the RTA is implementing a strict no-parking policy along the bike lanes.

“Vehicles parked everywhere along the designated lanes and jeepney drivers are rude enough that they would pull to a stop to pick a passenger,” Achondo said.

The drivers, he said, flagrantly violate the no-parking policy despite the presence of RTA traffic enforcers.

“Parking is clearly illegal but they violate the no-parking policy every day,” he said.

Achondo’s sentiments are shared by riders Lloyd Russel Sapida and Jaser Pamalan, who work for a well-known food delivery company here.

Sapida said he would be extra careful when cycling in these biking lanes.

“Vehicles would suddenly pull to a stop or you find a parked car blocking the lanes. You will figure in a traffic accident if you are not careful,” the 19-year-old working student said.

Pamalan said a car bumped him on the rear of his bicycle while negotiating the bike lanes.

“The driver told me he did not see me when he suddenly pulled to a stop. Luckily I had only a few scratches,” said the father of two children.

Despite the dangers of cycling around the city, Pamalan said he continues to deliver food because he earns enough to feed his wife and children.

He said the RTA should conduct more traffic seminars for the drivers to respect the bikers.

He urged the RTA to put up more bike lane markers, install delineators to separate the bike lanes from vehicular traffic, and put visible traffic signs.

“Drivers here are so rude against bikers like us. They think they are the kings of the road,” Pamalan lamented.

Teejay Gallardo, a local entrepreneur, also bikes to his store every day ever since COVID-19 infections swelled in the city.

He brings extra clothes when he bikes the four-kilometer distance from his home in Barangay Kauswagan to his shop in the downtown area, then change into new clothes and park his bike in a small parking area he and other bikers rented for space.

Gallardo said the entire routine is convenient for him because he no longer need to ride jeepneys full of passengers.

“These days we have to be extra careful. The virus is still out there,” he pointed out.

Like other bikers, Gallardo is careful when cycling the streets, especially the portion when he has to bike through the national highway.

He said on several occasions, he found himself sandwiched between two big trucks at the intersections.

As more people here embraced cycling, enthusiasts find Cagayan de Oro and the neighboring provinces offering some of the best rides in the country.

Lory Gacusan, a housewife, said there might be no other city in the country where one can enjoy her morning coffee and get out to enjoy the rides.

Food delivery riders enjoy a respite in between orders at a park in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo taken 10 Nov 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“There is no rush here. I can be on the bike trails in 20 minutes from my house,” she said.

Gacusan said the city has a lot to offer for cycling enthusiasts, like the Mapawa range and Camarahan Ridge which have mountain trails to satisfy the adventurous riders.

She and her husband took on cycling as a recreation when the pandemic started last year.

Gacusan said they are now engaging on longer loops, like the one via Talakag, Lantapan, Malaybalay City (all in Bukidnon) to Cagayan de Oro – a distance of 175 kilometers.

“It’s a very exciting ride and a challenge for women riders,” she said.

Gacusan said they are now planning to bike all the way to General Santos City on the southern tip of Mindanao and back. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)

[This story is part of this year’s Mobility Awards, organized by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), The Climate Reality Project Philippines, MNL Moves, Pilipinas, and the Pinay Bike Commute, in collaboration with the League of Cities of the Philippines and 27 regional partners across the country.]