MMDA’s knee-jerk ban on e-bikes
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MMDA’s knee-jerk ban on e-bikes

The Manila Metropolitan Development Authority’s (MMDA) recent ban on e-bikes, e-trikes, and other similar vehicles from major Metro Manila roads (MMDA Regulation No. 24-022 Series of 2024) is a hasty and ill-conceived policy.

Despite sweeping announcements, the full text of the resolution remains hidden from the very people it impacts. What we do know is troubling: mandatory driver’s licenses, impoundment threats, and hefty fines.

This ignores the reality of e-vehicles. They’re a grassroots solution for those who can’t afford cars, enabling essential movement for work, school, and basic living.

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E-bikes and e-trikes take up less space than cars, which can help to alleviate traffic congestion and improve air quality. They are significantly cheaper to operate than cars, with lower fuel and maintenance costs. Electricity costs for charging are generally much lower than gasoline or public transport fares. E-bikes and e-trikes produce zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to cleaner air and a reduced carbon footprint.

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These options provide a convenient and accessible mode of transportation for people of all ages and fitness levels, including those who may find traditional cycling challenging.

Yet, the MMDA’s top-down approach disregards this vital function, seemingly concerned about how e-vehicles inconvenience car owners. The announcement raises more questions than answers:

Redundancy: Why does this regulation exist when the Transportation Office already has a comprehensive regulatory framework (Administrative Order No. 2021-039) that carefully considers e-vehicle types and aligns with international best practices?

No driver’s license and registration is required for these vehicles that have speeds of not more than 25 kilometers per hour. They can use private roads, barangay roads, and bicycle lanes. High-power e-bikes that travel from 25 kph to over 50 kph require registration and driver’s licenses, but they can travel along all roads, except highways.

Bike lanes: Some circumferential and radial roads have bike lanes. Edsa has protected bike lanes, particularly from Roxas Boulevard to Monumento. C-5 has bike lanes along portions of the road. Cities like Marikina, Pasig, and Quezon City have bike lane networks within their jurisdictions that might traverse some radial and circumferential roads. Shouldn’t the MMDA prioritize completing protected bike infrastructure before a ban, promoting inclusion instead of exclusion?

Evidence: Where is the data backing this supposed “safety” focus? Are e-vehicles disproportionately dangerous compared to other road users? MMDA’s Romando Artes mentions 554 road crash incidents in 2023 involving these electric-powered vehicles. Without context and comparative statistics, this borders on the dishonest.

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Communication: Where is the Strategic Communication Plan—carefully vetted and sequenced release of information to the public to facilitate their understanding and acceptance of the new regulation? Where is the information drive that is supposed to precede the undated April deadline?

There are so many words to use, but why use the particularly obfuscatory term “traverse” about the highways e-vehicles should not travel on, travel across or through, or to zigzag or move back and forth or from side to side? To old hands, “traverse” in quaint MMDA lingo means pouncing on tricycles that briefly and “illegally” traverse intersecting national roads.

Consultation: Where were the voices of the people, of advocacy groups like Move As One Coalition or Alt Mobility? Sustainable transport solutions demand input from those affected. Only clueless bureaucrats will think consultations are optional.

Local alignment: Why issue a metropolitan-scale regulation without consulting the component cities and barangays to understand their specific situations about e-bikes and e-trikes? So, the local governments now are supposed to clarify and elaborate on the obfuscatory MMDA regulation with their home-grown officious issuances, magically expecting all these will fall into place, aligned with one another?

Land Transportation Office complicity: The LTO’s sudden support for broad licensing contradicts its earlier, more nuanced regulations. This undermines their credibility and suggests caving to a flawed policy.

Regulation No. 24-022 must be rescinded. This e-vehicle ban is a symptom of a larger problem: MMDA’s broken decision-making. It prioritizes optics over the genuine needs of citizens.

Here’s what should happen: (1) Release the full resolution and its supporting data immediately, allowing for public scrutiny; (2) Consult with transport experts, advocacy groups, and directly affected communities to create solutions that are workable and truly serve the public; (3) Focus on expanding and improving safe bike lanes and pedestrian networks to truly promote inclusive and sustainable mobility; (4) Align any e-vehicle licensing scheme with LTO’s original framework, recognizing the different classes of vehicles and the importance of access for many commuters.

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TAGS: e-bikes, e-vehicles, MMDA, opinion

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