“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — I HAVE covered the Vancouver city hall beat, among other offices and cities in the British Columbia for a Filipino community newspaper, Philippine Asian News Today, where I briefly served as editor in 2012.
It was in this world’s most livable city where I saw Mayor Gregor Robertson report for work on a bicycle. He went to city hall riding on a two-wheel bike like an ordinary cyclist without any bodyguard.
After parking his bicycle, he changed cloths right there in the parking area from jersey to office attire before proceeding to the mayor’s office on 453 West 12th Avenue. Only tourists could not recognize that the cyclist changing cloths in the parking space was the chief executive of the City of Vancouver.
Because he loves cycling, his proposal to create more cycling lanes in the streets snowballed. It was not hard for Robertson to get the support of the Vancouver city council which had voted unanimously to spend Canadian $25 million to create and improve bike lanes throughout the city, re-writing the city’s map on how people get around.
The money would be spent building about 55 kilometers of new bike lanes and construction is on-going. It was expected to also enhance and improve connections from south Vancouver to the Canada Line Bridge.
Other notable changes expected in the project included extending separated bike lanes along Burrard Street and the Dunsmuir Viaduct, a pedestrian cycling greenway along Helmcken Street and an east-west bike route along 45th Avenue.
On March 10, 2010, we witnessed the smiling Robertson, an avid cyclist, open the Dunsmuir Viaduct bike lane. People in Vancouver have high regards for cyclists, who are treated with utmost respect in the roads because of the mayor’s influence and advocacy for this mode of transportation.
The last time I was with Robertson was when we watched the 2010 World Cup finals between Spain and The Netherlands on Dunsmuir. I sat beside him on the pavement together with hundreds of soccer fans. “Where’s your bike, mayor?” I asked him while he was about to leave after the Spaniards bundled out the Dutchmen, 2-0. “I parked it at city hall,” he retorted with a smile.
I recalled the biking event last April 1, 2014 when I witnessed the 1st Iloilo Bike Festival with routes passing the Lizares Mansion, Casa Mariquit, Jaro plaza, cathedral and belfry, Sanson-Montinola house, Nelly Garden, Museo Iloilo, the old provincial capitol and Arroyo Fountain, Calle Real, Fort San Pedro, Plaza Libertad, City Hall, San Jose Church and Sto. Rosario heritage houses, Customs House, Molo Church and Iloilo River Esplanade.
More than a hundred cycling enthusiasts joined the fun ride and helped promote the “Share the Road” movement.
Then Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who joined the cyclists, led the ceremonial countdown together with then Iloilo City Rep. and now mayor-elect Jerry Treñas and other city councilors and city hall officials.
“All of us are concerned in making our respective communities a better place to live in,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said in a speech and called the activity as timely amid the growing concern about the environment.
We’ve noticed that bike lanes were being built in some highways in the city especially in the Diversion Road.
Are we seeing Iloilo City as the next Vancouver when it comes to recognizing the rights of cycling enthusiasts to have separate bike lanes in major roads?
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)