After having lived for four years in a bike-friendly city, I came back to Manila in 2002 for good, hoping I could continue using a bicycle as my primary mode of transport. Sadly, though, with the harsh reality of living in a city that is friendly to neither pedestrian nor cyclist, I found myself using the bicycle less and less.
I remember being scolded by a security guard at a café just across from my university, because I came on my bicycle, even if I carefully leaned it against a bush at a corner outside the café and did not obstruct anyone in any way. The same guard, like in many other establishments, would not only allow cars, especially those big and heavily-tinted SUVs, to park along the road (and thus obstruct traffic), but even assist them in making an illegal crossing or U-turn at a major road.
But then it hit me: Will I wait until my city becomes bike-friendly before I begin regularly using my bicycle again as my main means of transport? That might very well mean it will never happen in my lifetime. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing.
So I resolved to use the bicycle again instead of waiting for something that might never happen in my lifetime. I decided that I shouldn’t allow what others do or fail to do, to prevent me from doing not only what is most sensible but, even more, what is most pleasurable.
I decided that I wouldn’t allow anyone to prevent me from living a joyful life.
But I also discovered something. Having like-minded friends you can ride with makes it infinitely more enjoyable. With friends, I was able to ride to places I thought I already knew, but now on a bicycle it’s as if I’m discovering them for the very first time. Whether it’s a quick ride to the nearest public market, or a weekend ride to Antipolo or Sierra Madre, it’s a joy at once simple and without compare.
Birds are built to fly. Fishes are built to swim. So, too, with our limbs and our upright stance, we humans are built to walk on earth, or to run and, thankfully, also to ride bicycles. We are called bipedal animals not without reason.
Is it any wonder that the best cities in the world are also those that are walkable and bike-friendly? That should not be a mystery—we must build and design cities in keeping with the way we humans are likewise built and designed.
What could be more sensible than that? What could be more pleasurable than to be who we are and to live according to the way we already are?
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Cover photo by Cuong Nguyen, SJ