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A city of orange cones

Orange cones have sprouted in Metro Manila like bright mushrooms, to serve as a demarcation for bike lanes that are a little more than a meter wide and the rest of the road.

Bike lanes should prevent cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, etc., from crashing into bikers, or bikers crashing into these motor vehicles. As a means of daily commute, bicycles do need their own paths.

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The two-wheel vehicle, believed to have been invented by a German in 1817, now brings workers to their factories or construction sites, doctors and nurses to their hospitals, government and private employees to their offices, parents to grocery stores, friends to meeting places, teenagers on errands to convenience stores, and food delivery workers to restaurants and homes.

Social media has been abuzz with pictures and stories about known individuals, like Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, riding the bicycle to work.

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With no carbon emissions, inexpensive to maintain (unless your bicycle is the type that costs nearly the same as a car), good for exercise, and able to dodge road bottlenecks, the bicycle has come of age.

The bicycle’s coming of age, though, was not mainly because of the tens of thousands who love to bike. It became necessary to bike for many residents of the metropolis who didn’t own cars when the government ground most public transportation to a halt, believing it to be an avenue for the spread of COVID-19.

As bicycles became ubiquitous, so did orange cones.

If you think you’ve never seen as many orange cones as you have on roads these days, that’s because there has never been as many orange cones out there as now.

The use of orange cones to create bike lanes could be out of convenience or expediency.

The Department of Transportation has announced that by June 15, it would have finished a network of bike lanes, costing P1.3 billion, in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao.

Using orange cones does not require rocket science. For bike lanes, just measure a meter or more of width on the road’s rightmost lane, mark those with chalk, then drop the orange cones at uniform distance from each other. If you run out of orange cones, just buy more.

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With P1.3 billion, you can buy more than three million orange cones for P349 each, the cheapest, or nearly 250,000 cones for P5,999, the most expensive.

Judging from the bike lanes already existing, no infrastructure is actually being built. Bike lanes are simply being carved out of existing roads, narrowing these arteries to create safe space exclusive for bikers.

The iteration of the orange cone evolved in many cities. While some retain movable cones, some have used alternatives that are drilled in place.

It’s not clear if there’s a constant inventory of how many movable orange cones remain in place. With weights ranging from as light as 3 kilos to as heavy as a little more than 4 kilos, movable orange cones are easy to steal.

In many cases where the bike lanes are wide enough and where the loss of orange cones creates gaps that invite car intrusion, you see vehicles with hazard lights blinking parked on the lanes that are definitely not bicycles.

In front of stores or establishments, orange cones serve an unintended purpose of marking, not bike lanes, but parking spaces for cars, vans, and delivery vehicles.

Bike lane, my butt.

Pandemic projects, like the bike lane network, deserve support. But they deserve a closer look, too.

As bike lanes in many places morph into something that they were not designed for—sidewalks, speed lanes for motorcycles, parking spaces—the question that arises is: Will this really cost P1.3 billion?

Setting aside costs, bike lanes should serve a purpose more meaningful than just turning the cash registers of orange cone dealers, lucky them, clinking without end.

It could mirror the kind of pandemic response that unfolds in different ways every day, a kind that should be prompting a collective scream from the Filipino people—We deserve better!

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Tony Bergonia is a former Inquirer desk editor and reporter.

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TAGS: bike lane, infrastruction, opinion, orange cone, Transportation
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