cycling in the Philippines

Women cyclists call for proactive road protection laws, more bikers’ dialogues

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Women cyclists call for proactive road protection laws, more bikers’ dialogues

PUSHING FORWARD. Pinay Bike Commuter Community admin Geri Amarnani addresses issues surrounding the Philippine biker community, advocating for key changes to enhance the welfare of the cyclists during the Batas Bisikleta panel discussion at the Rappler office on Sunday, May 12.


Women cyclists spark conservations on stronger road laws and progressive talks to amplify their concerns during the Batas Bisikleta forum at the Rappler headquarters

MANILA, Philippines – With traffic violation concerns and harassment on the road raised, women cyclists appealed to public officials and law enforcers to create effective laws and biking community forums that can assert their rights and safety. 

At least 90 bikers, advocates, lawyers, students, and government officials lobbied to address the pressing issues that surround the laws for the cycling community in the Philippines during the Batas Bisikleta bikers’ rights forum  at the Rappler headquarters on Sunday, May 12.

The highlight of the event was a panel discussion headed by Rappler Community Lead Pia Ranada with human rights defender lawyer Chel Diokno, AltMobility PH Director Ira Cruz, Rappler environment reporter Iya Gozum, and Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) officials Brigadier General Alan Nazarro and lawyer Anthony Sanchez.

Rising concerns

Women cyclists’ unfortunate stories are almost always anchored in sexual harassment and bullying on the road, and they can attest to it.

For instance, Karen Crisostomo of Bicycle Friendly Philippines recalled a time where she got caught in a road incident prompted by reckless drunk men. 

While she made complaints at the barangay level and to the PNP, Crisostomo felt as if her issue was being questioned and not enough help was extended. “It’s almost like they don’t want you to report because it will take up so much of your time,” Crisostomo shared during the panel discussion.

This goes for the members of the Pinay Bike Commuter Community (PBCC), too.

PBCC co-founder Geri Amarnani said that her organization has become a safe space for the members to air their concerns. However, a lot of them opt to not file cases against their harassers and road violators for two usual reasons: they find it a hassle to do so or are unsure of the next steps to tackle once they have reported to the police.

In an interview with Rappler, Crisostomo argued that there’s the line women cyclists tread between feeling frustrated and hopeful because while police forces offer verbal support, it is not as visibly felt when they bike on a road brimming with cars.

“You can have all the flowery words that say ‘we support you’, ‘we understand that cyclists have rights and the benefits of cycling’ or that ‘cycling as a primary mode of transportation,’ and yet what we do see and feel is that the country is still very much car-centric,” she said.

Amarnani, meanwhile, also raised the same issue on behalf of women cyclists on vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children, and pregnant women. For her, the efforts to improve bike lanes and ensure cyclists’ protection will be to no avail if the needs of these groups are not in the government and law enforcers’ priority list.

“If you give me a bike lane that is not inclusive for vulnerable groups, for the elderly to bike, for my son to bike, for a PWD person to bike, for a pregnant woman to bike for her checkup, then this will be for nothing. Efforts will be wasted,” she told Rappler in a mix of Filipino and English.

Calls to improve bikers’ rights laws

For many, the challenges of women cyclists are expected to be properly addressed, especially when reported to the authorities. However, there seems to be an anomaly when the bike commuters turn to this solution.

Lawyer Chel Diokno said that the Philippine law provides that whoever is irresponsible will answer to the law enforcers and the court.

“The basic rule is that the party that’s negligent is the party that will be liable. The basic law that applies when you speak of any kind of road accidents really is the law on negligence,” he said.

Additionally, he cited a Supreme Court decision recognizing bikes as a non-motorized mode of transportation separate to motorized vehicles, and highlighted the responsibility of automobile operators to prioritize the safety of pedestrians and bikers to prevent accidents.

“This is recognized by the Supreme Court, the drivers of motor vehicles can inflict a lot of damage because of their capability to speed the vehicle itself, the body of the vehicle,” he noted.

However, there exists a narrative on the road that is on a different pole. The cyclists often face negligence of law enforcers which invalidates the concerns raised by the victims of road accidents and other issues.

According to the Land Transportation and Traffic Code or the Republic Act No. 4136, all law enforcement units should implement and obey the law. They are responsible for thoroughly discussing the probable causes and penalties in road accident involvement. The law also mandates enforcers to provide assistance to the distressed commuters while ensuring public safety.

In this regard, the community leaders weighed in by proposing some improvements to the current laws that include comprehensive training for traffic enforcers, a one-stop shop for reporting incidents, debunking of myths and misconceptions regarding traffic law, addition of traffic education in the curriculum of schools, and protection for victims after filing their cases.

More avenues for bikers

The cycling community remains optimistic despite the need for more proactive measures concerning bikers’ rights. For one, community involvement is key. 

Amarnani said that she had long been waiting for a bikers rights’ discussion to materialize, what with all the shared struggles her group has experienced over their years of biking.

With Batas Biskleta, she made it a goal to raise awareness on the challenges faced by women cyclists. “For the past two years, I have been reaching out to lawyer friends, to police friends na kung pwede magkaroon kami ng forum na ganito,” she said.

(For the past two years, I have been reaching out to lawyer friends, to police friends to ask them when we can have a forum like this.)

AGENTS OF CHANGE. (from left to right) Pia Ranada, Ira Cruz, Iya Gozum, PBGen. Alan Nazarro, Atty. Anthony Sanchez. Photo: Mika Soria/RAPPLER

Through interactive causes like this, Amarnani expressed that bikers themselves, especially women, can become more empowered to champion their rights on the road. 

“I would wish na mas marami pang forums pero this is really a big step talaga kasi to be able to have this paper with us na to tell people, ‘Hey, I know my rights. You cannot just bully us on the road,’ especially for women,” she said.

(I would wish for more forums to be organized, but this is already a big step to be able to tell people, ‘Hey, I know my rights. You cannot just bully us on the road,’ especially for women.) 

Batas Bisikleta is organized by Rappler and AltMobilityPH in partnership with The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in the Philippines and is part of Rappler’s Make Manila Liveable campaign. – Adelainne Balbin & Ian Capoquian/

Adelainne Balbin is a Rappler intern from the Lyceum of the Philippines University Manila. She is currently in her fourth year in college taking up Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

Ian Capoquian is a Rappler intern from Adamson University. He is a fourth year student taking up Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Currently, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief of The Adamson Chronicle, the official student publication of his university.

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