Aldrin is a bike commuter in Manila, Philippines, riding his bike to work and errands around the area. He’s also a writer for MNL Moves: “Cyclists and pedestrians working to make active transport easier and safer in Metro Manila.” Participate with MNL Moves on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.
What got you started riding your bicycle for everyday transportation?
I started riding a bicycle for everyday transportation in 2015 when my 4-km commute would take an hour on public transport. In Metro Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines, many are forced to hitch on public transport vehicles that we have here like jeepneys, buses, and vans. I always hitched and would most of the time find my way through to find a seat.
My epiphany was when I was running super late and there weren’t any seats available, so I had to walk from home to go to work one day. I realized if I have to walk now I might as well find a faster way of walking. And that led me to cycling.
How long have you been bike commuting in Manila?
Five years and counting!
What’s a normal commute distance for you in Manila?
Around 26 kilometers (16 miles) round trip (going to work and back home).
What kind of bicycle do you use for riding in Manila and where did you get it?
What’s your favorite piece of bike gear?
I love my bike commuting bags and my favorite is my backpack that converts into a pannier bag. This one is a Canadian brand, Two Wheel Gear, from Vancouver. And a bit of a shameless plug but I am one of their brand ambassadors, the second in Asia. But objectively speaking, any serious daily bike commuter in any city around the world should have a Two Wheel Gear bag (they make backpacks, messenger bags, suit bags, etc) – they are top notch design and quality. (Check out their bags on Amazon)
Where do you normally park your bike while out and at home?
Since I use folding bicycles, I usually bring it inside the building or place I would go to. But since I got my first full-size bike last year, I researched beforehand if there were available bike parking facilities at my destination. At home, I fold my Brompton and Tern bikes and stow them away in a corner while my Jamis gets a space beside our family car (yes! I do still drive for essential trips like bringing the kids to their pediatrician).
How would you describe the bike culture in Manila?
It’s vibrant, full of life, and a bit chaotic, but something that could be harnessed to grow into a serious population of everyday transportation cyclists. Something that could only happen with proper and adequate support from the government and the private sector.
How has the COVID-19 coronavirus changed cycling in Manila?
It has changed a lot. It is like the “almost tipping point” for us. A good number have been forced to shift to cycling because of the pandemic but as we observe, what’s sorely lacking is the policy and infrastructure support. But as of today, the government has committed to build bike lanes and put up a bike share here in Metro Manila and these might come by mid-2021 so we will see.
Is there any bikeshare or scootershare in Manila that you can use?
There have been attempts in the past but these have not been sustainable. Now, the Department of Transport (national agency) and the Metro Manila Development Authority are planning to start a bike share program in the coming months to complement the limited rail system.
How do you deal with fashion and attire on the bicycle?
I just wear shirts and pants that are quick to dry. I also bring extra work clothes to the office (back when we used to report before the pandemic). I try to stay away from Lycra just because I don’t do that kind of cycling. Anything comfortable and looking good too should be fine.
What’s your favorite bike route in Manila?
I enjoy riding this road – J P Rizal Avenue Extension – that runs parallel to the Pasig River on my way to work. It has a shared space for cyclists and pedestrians but definitely could be improved in the future.
And also the quieter streets in Pasig where I live and in Quezon City where I studied in the university that have trees with huge canopies. It makes for much cooler rides.
I noticed that Google Maps doesn’t have biking directions or bike lanes shown in Manila. How do you plan your bike route?
I actually use Google Maps but I choose the walking option. However, I do note and anticipate that not the entire route would be applicable for people on bicycles since it is for walking. The more techie people here use OpenStreet Map, but I don’t find it user friendly. And while mappers here who also cycle contribute regularly to OpenStreet map, I personally think it’s still tough to recommend that because the kind of bike lanes that we have here are just not good. Especially for the concerned, not confident cyclists.
What’s some of your favorite or innovative infrastructure your city is using?
The quick-build bike lane projects of shopping malls and local governments.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give about bike commuting in Manila?
Give it a try and start now! If you’re in the Philippines, check out further resources with MNL Moves.