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Bikes to the rescue

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Pasyal Team

Posted on July 22, 2020

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TEXT AND ART BY NEAL P. CORPUS

Life Cycles PH is keeping frontliners moving under lockdown — and hopes to make cycling a more integral part of the metro.

At the onset of the pandemic and of the subsequent lockdown, a problem that quickly arose was transportation. With public transportation largely unavailable, mobility became extremely restricted — especially for the majority that didn’t own private cars.

This problem then gave birth to Life Cycles PH. Founded by cycling advocate and transport planner Keisha Mayuga along with a group of friends and transport advocates, Life Cycles quickly organized to offer bicycles as a way for frontliners to get to work.

“When they announced that there would be no public transport available during the ECQ, I was heartbroken,” Keisha shares. “The only options for people to get to work then was either take their private vehicle or walk.”

Within 20 hours of the announcement, Life Cycles sprung into action and since then, around 100 volunteers have worked on the initiative.

Life Cycles PH connects cash and bike donors to front liners in need. Image courtesy of Keisha Mayuga.

Life Cycles helps frontliners through a two-pronged approach. First, they gather cash donations and buy bikes in bulk, which are then donated to various hospitals, LGUs, and establishments. Second, they set up a community on Facebook that links up bike owners who want to lend out their bikes to frontliners in need.

Early in the lockdown period, Life Cycles partnered with Ayala Malls to set up a bike hub at U.P. Town Center, and although logistics became a challenge, Life Cycles was able to collect bikes for donation.

Soon after, when restrictions eased up, Life Cycles was able to donate 20 bikes to employees working at U.P. Town Center, complete with locks, helmets, and lights.

Currently, Ayala Malls has a wide network of bike racks at its establishments throughout the Philippines to meet the need of cyclists both experienced and new.

The bike rack at Ayala Malls Feliz. Photo from Ayala Malls Feliz Facebook page.

Now that lockdown restrictions are slowly easing up, Life Cycles hopes that cycling will become a new normal within our cities. So far, they’ve raised over P3 million to buy bikes for those in need. “Until now, people have been donating and we have still been giving,” Keisha shares, although donations have, understandably, slowed down.

But Keisha and Life Cycles forge on, adapting to current circumstances: “Even with the slowing down of monetary donations, there is still a huge need for bikes, especially because of the lack of proper mass transport,” she says. “We’re looking into restructuring to see how we can effectively help out more people in a sustainable manner.”

But is cycling really a feasible means of transport for everyday? Well, Keisha certainly makes it work: “Honestly, it could be really tiring at first, especially if the commute is more than 20 kilometers daily. But once it becomes more regular, it gets easier,” shares Keisha.

Keisha incorporates her exercise with her daily commute, a quick 45 minutes compared to the usual 2 hours by car or other modes of transport. Photo courtesy of Keisha Mayuga.

It’s also a great way to get exercise, Keisha adds. “I always used to struggle fitting my daily exercise within my busy schedule, but biking to work is a great way to hit two birds with one stone.”

What’s more is Keisha gets to save time and money while she’s at it: “My two-hour commute or drive becomes just 45 minutes of exercise. Before the pandemic, I used to save at least P2,000 a week if I had chosen other modes over cycling,” she says.

How do we get more people to take biking seriously? It’s also a matter of accessibility, according to Keisha. When asked about what measures establishments and LGUs alike can implement quickly (and cost-effectively!), bike parking is one way to get started.

“If there was bike parking present even before the pandemic, this is the time to expand and invest in proper bicycle facilities.”

Pop-up bike lanes are also a good way to protect cyclists, says Keisha, and are a good way to gauge how the public will use them before LGUs can implement more permanent infrastructure.

The bike rack at Ayala Malls Abreeza. Photo from the Twitter page of Abreeza.

And to encourage more people to bike to work, “Institutions can also look into improving other bike facilities such as showers and lockers,” says Keisha.

For those still on the fence on venturing into the metro on two wheels, Keisha offers these tips: “Try biking small distances at a time. Your confidence in biking matters a lot, especially when you start biking alongside fast-moving vehicles.”

She adds that wearing light clothing and reflective gear, along with staying alert, will go a long way in terms of safety. After that, you’re all set. “Once you find the freedom in cycling everywhere, it will feel like you’ve unlocked a whole new city to explore on two wheels.”

Life Cycles PH is still accepting donations. If you have a bike to spare or would like to donate cash (one bike is about P5,000), visit Life Cycles PH on Facebook.

Looking to upgrade or get your first bike? Check out these stores:

  • Chris Sports (U.P. Town Center, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Harbor Point, Ayala Center Cebu, Centrio Mall, and Abreeza)
  • Olympic Village (Alabang Town Center, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Fairview Terraces, Glorietta, Market! Market!, TriNoma, Ayala Center Cebu, and Centrio Mall)
  • Toby’s Sports (Bonifacio High Street Central, TriNoma, Glorietta 2 and 4, U.P. Town Center, Ayala Malls Feliz, Alabang Town Center, and Abreeza)

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