Local bikers join the "Salubungan" event at the San Juanico Bridge on Sunday (Nov. 25, 2018). (Photo by Roel Amazona)

TACLOBAN CITY - A group of clean air advocates is calling for stricter implementation of laws for the safety of bikers and pedestrians as they staged a biking event in this city Sunday night.

Firefly Brigade Philippines president Jack Yabut, who led the five-man riders from Baguio to Tacloban, said everyone needs to observe traffic rules for the safety of bikers and pedestrians alike.

“That’s the purpose of this ride. We are doing a trans-Philippine or trans-country ride connecting all the major island and all the major cities and towns and provinces and regions through biking. The Philippines is a beautiful country to travel to and every traveller has to be safe whether you are riding a car, motorcycle or bicycle,” Yabut added.

He urged authorities to strictly enforce road safety laws and provide infrastructure support to bicycle users like providing bicycle lanes.

“This is a concerted effort by all, not only from us, the advocates, but also from the motorists and the government to implement laws that will protect and safeguard the pedestrians and bikers,” Yabut said.

“These bicycle lanes do need to be a visible structure. It can also be an invisible bicycle lane like in Japan where giving bikers safe space in the road is already part of their culture,” Yabut added.

Providing bicycle lane is a big challenge, especially in urban areas, where spaces to expand roads are very limited, Firefly Connections Founder Lyndon Yeo said.

Yeo, along with fellow Singaporean Mervyn Chan, flew all the way from Singapore to Tacloban to join the first “Salubungan” (encounter) in Eastern Visayas.

“One of the biggest challenges is putting up a bike lane especially in big cities. There is always this sense of being safe when you are a cyclist. There is always this right of the motorists to think that the road belongs to them,” Yeo said.

Being healthy and physically fit is not the only benefit that biking gives but it also has economic, environmental, social, emotional and psychological benefits, Yeo noted.

More than 300 bikers joined the “Salubungan” event at the San Juanico Bridge as part of an intensified promotion of a safe zone for pedestrian and bicycle users.

Organized by the Firefly Brigade and Wetland International, the event attracted participants from Luzon. They started their biking journey from Baguio to Metro Manila last week before heading to Bicol region and crossed the sea to reach Eastern Visayas.

Joining their team at Allen port were biking enthusiasts from Northern Samar, who joined them in their journey to Tacloban City.

During the event, the lights of the bridge were turned off as the bikers crossed the iconic 2.2 kilometers bridge that connects the islands of Samar and Leyte.

Like firefly in the night, the blinkers of the bikes guided the bikers on their way to the Leyte side from the Samar side of the bridge.

After a day’s rest, the bikers will continue their journey south on Tuesday to Liloan port in Southern Leyte and cross the Surigao Strait to reach Mindanao - with Davao City as their final destination.

In Davao, the bikers will be meet by organizers, who will bike with them until they reach the Philippine Eagle Sanctuary.

Formed in 1999, Firefly Brigade citizen’s volunteer action group works for clean air and a habitable, people-friendly environment in cities in the country. (PNA)