MANILA, Philippines—News anchor Gretchen Ho has been a bicycle enthusiast for several years already, but she has observed during the period that she has been pedaling around that riding remains to be a risky endeavor for many, not only women.
“Cycling safety here in Metro Manila has tremendous room for improvement, and I’ve been fighting for that, advocating for safe cycling on the road,” she told the Inquirer in an interview on Friday, March 24.
Her response was prompted by a report that a traffic enforcer was killed while saving a cyclist who was about to get hit by a 14-wheeler truck in Quezon City on March 22. She first heard about the incident from this writer. “It’s really heartbreaking to hear accidents like that. It has become all too common, I’d like to say, in Metro Manila,” she said.
Ho said she has been conducting bike drives, but found it hard to get people on bicycles because of the missing infrastructure that would efficiently protect cyclists on the road. “In my second run (of the bike drive), I was approaching [local government units] already to promote the policy and for them to support bike lanes,” she shared.
She said that whenever she goes on group rides, she would always remind her companions to assume “defensive cycling,” and appealed to motorists and everyone using the road to be conscious of cyclists. “Bicycles are not mere nuisance on the road, they need respect,” she said, while reminding fellow cyclists, “You have to know how to ride well, there’s also a right way to be on the road.”
While declining to impose any liability on a lone party in the recent road mishap that resulted in the death of a traffic enforcer, Ho said, “What we can see here is the need for everybody, whether you are driving a car, a motorcycle, or a bicycle, to respect one another.”
Ho insisted that bike lanes should remain. “They were there in the pandemic, some LGUs stood by them, they’re still there. Some LGUs have removed the bike lanes, trying to be subtle about it,” she said. She also applauded the indignation against the planned conversion of bike lanes to shared lanes for bicycles and cars in Makati City.
She said bike lanes are necessary because cyclists feel vulnerable. “Just a small mistake or a little swerve outside your lane, you’d feel it’s a life-or-death situation,” Ho shared, and said it is imperative to have lanes dedicated only for bicycles, “and establish the behavior that ‘hey, there are bicycles there, you have to respect them.’”
Ho added: “I hope more than seeing it as a nuisance on the road, I hope we get to build a real system around it. When I say systems, not just the bike lanes. It’s also the end-to-end, the bike parking, shower facilities, the workplace that supports that, establishments that put bike racks. If it’s half-baked, you’ll really go back to how it was.”
The news anchor and former collegiate varsity volleyball star said cycling must be encouraged, especially nowadays, because it is a cheap mobility option for those looking for ways to curb financial losses at a time of rising commodity prices. “Not everyone understands this because we have been accustomed to how it was before, we just accept that we are a car-centric metropolitan,” Ho surmised.
But all this still has not discouraged her from pedaling and taking even a longer route for a cycling event. “I’m excited to take on the challenges,” Ho said as she is set to take her first crack at a 100-km distance in an event in Clark, Pampanga, on May 21. She is also excited to join the May 28 race in Cebu because the route will include the newly constructed Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX). /ra