Maki-BIKE ka, huwag matakot!

“Bike with us, don’t be afraid”

“Bike commuting was, for me, not just a commuting mode. It was part of a way of life that I entered into in the first half of the 1990s, and which I maintain to this day.”

Dino Alberto E. Subingsubing

Maki-BIKE ka!: A bike commuter’s tale is an excellent article about the benefits of bike commuting as a part of a healthy, sustainable lifestyle… in Manila.

I really didn’t start out a hardcore bike commuter. In fact, I only learned to ride a bike in 1992. But the appeal of being able to travel at your own pace, being free to choose your own route at will and not getting stuck in traffic gridlock made me choose biking as my ideal commuting mode.

[S]uch a lifestyle (diet and all) contributed to my being very physically fit and mentally laid back. I also noticed that I tended to be cranky, tense and irritable whenever I would get caught in traffic while riding the bus, jeepney or taxi. […] By the time I arrived in the office, I’d be like a wilted plant, and my mind would be so fogged by car fumes and tired that it would take me a while to be mentally prepared for work in the office.

In my experience, bike commuting has kept my mind sharp and alert, because that’s what is needed when you’re biking in traffic, with buses, cars, trucks and motorcycles passing you by front, back and sideways. It’s like meditation in motion. At the same time, by the time I arrive at the office, my mind and body are alert, because blood is in full circulation after about an hour and a half of bicycling.

Aside from some of the hazard-avoidance and the need to wear a face mask in heavy traffic, Mr. Subingsubing offers standard advice that applies everywhere (and yet is sadly missing from most mainstream dialog about cycling):

When biking on the road, claim the entire lane. After all, your bicycle is a vehicle and you have an equal right to the road. By being visible in the middle of your chosen lane, you are also training motorists to respect you as a road user. Just signal them to pass you by, if you are going at a slower speed than they are.

Don’t worry excessively about the traffic behind you. The majority of city car-bike accidents happen when driver and rider cross each other’s paths at intersections and driveways, especially when drivers turn across cyclists’ paths.

Where have you heard that before?

Learn how to look behind without swerving. This is a key skill for surviving busy streets. We call this scanning the road. Don’t rely on peripheral vision.

Be seen. Wear bright clothes. Helmets are another potential eye-catcher. Use a good rear flasher, a front light with side visibility and as much reflective material as you can bear to put on your helmet and bike frame.

And again…

In normal situations, ride in the right lane, but as far to the left as is practical. Drivers won’t be tempted to squeeze past you. Claim the entire lane if that’s what you need to ensure safety. Stay out there where you belong.

This is what we call “lane control.” It’s more active than simple “lane position” and it’s very important in a complex urban environment. It is also counter to everything people think they know about cycling, which is why you have to leave the Matrix to do it.

There’s lots more good advice in the article. It’s a positive and informative piece on reality-based bicycling—riding safely and effectively in the world as it is.