MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) joined on Thursday the global movement for active mobility, as the world celebrated World Car Free Day.
In an interview, DepEd Undersecretary Kris Ablan urged government employees and the general public to try riding a bike to work.
“I biked to work this morning, and we also encouraged DepEd employees to ditch the car today, and hopefully start a habit of biking to work [more regularly]… We’re not saying that we should ditch the car every day, but during trips that are five kilometers away, malapit lang pwede naman mag-bike, ‘wag na tayo dumagdag sa traffic pa (it’s just near, we can use a bike, let’s not add to traffic volume),” he said.
Ablan shared that he bikes to the DepEd central office in Pasig City at least once a week.
To entice more employees to bikes, the DepEd central office has put up an “end-of-trip” facility as prescribed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
The end-of-trip facility includes bike ramps, bike racks, bike repair stands, and showers for bikers in each establishment or office.
“We were able to do it… Hopefully from the central office, we can trickle it down to our schools here in Metro Manila, and in other areas where biking is a form of transportation,” Ablan added.
Rosar Crisostomo, 61, a retired Ateneo teacher, has joined the Car Free Day initiative, as one of the volunteer teachers for biking.
He said that biking, a part of his over two-decade-long advocacy, is easy to learn and significantly beneficial to one’s lifestyle, noting that a beginner may learn as fast as half an hour, if willing and motivated.
“Kung willing talaga, gustong matuto ng tao, ang dali lang, baka kalahating oras lang marunong na siyang mag-balance, marunong na siya mag-pedal. Pero iba't iba kasi ang kakayahan ng tao so ang sinasabi ko (if a person is truly willing, it is very easy, maybe half an hour, a person can learn how to balance, to pedal. But every person is different, what I’m saying is) we have a built-in ability to balance, we just have to discover it. How would you discover it? By trying it,” he said.
In the end, Crisostomo could not help but laud the DepEd’s initiative and hope for its sustainability.
“Sana ito’y magtuluy-tuloy upang ‘yung mga estudyante halimbawa e, hindi na kailangang mamasahe sa mga tricycle, sa mga jeep, makakatipid sila, kung maba-bike to school, at ‘yung mga guro, makakatipid din, makakabawas pa sa traffic (We hope this would continue so that learners, for example, they no longer need to spend for riding tricycles, jeeps, they can save money if they will bike to school, even teachers can save, and even decongest traffic),” he said.
Like him, the Pasig City local government is also delighted by the DepEd's initiative.
“Ito talaga ‘yung kailangan natin (This is what we need) for better mobility in our city, in our region, Pasig City is very happy to be able to help in however little way we can help, we gave some bike racks. Usec. Kris and I were talking earlier about improving our schools also in creating end-of-trip facilities,” Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto said.
Safe, inclusive mobility
The Pasig LGU, although proactive in promoting active transport, admitted there is more to improve on, especially in ensuring safe roads for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Hindi lang sa mga nagbibisikleta (not only in biking) per se, pero dun (but in) sa inclusive mobility, so ‘yung pagpapaganda pa po ng ating (improving our) bike lanes is a very big challenge but we will continue to do it,” Sotto said.
He added that the LGU has been continuously studying possible ways to resolve these challenges.
“Obviously we will not say that we are perfect… Pinag-aaralan din natin ngayon ‘yung pagpapatupad ng (We are studying the implementation of) speed limit ordinance sa lungsod ng Pasig ,” he said.
Ablan, meanwhile, emphasized that ensuring safe spaces for cyclists and pedestrians would not only mean securing the help of the local government but also instilling discipline in drivers.
“Drivers need to understand that the road is not just for cars, passenger jeepneys, or buses, but also for pedestrians and cyclists,” he said. (PNA)