Monday, 9 November 2009

Take your bike for a ride on the LRT!

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LRT allots ‘green zones’ for bikers

By Tessa Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20091109-235097/LRT-allots-green-zones-for-bikers

MANILA, Philippines—Bicycle commuters who wish to cut travel time while getting some relief from the fumes, noise and maddening traffic of Metro Manila now have a lighter, off-road option.

The Light Rail Transit (LRT) Lines 1 (Baclaran-Monumento) and 2 (Recto-Santolan) Sunday began admitting passengers with bikes in tow, allotting the last coach of each train for these pedal-pushing riders.

Regular fares apply in these so-called “green zone” coaches, but the LRT management is imposing certain conditions: The bikes must be of the “foldable” model and a maximum of only four bikes would be allowed per train.

To welcome the LRT’s “Bike-on Bike-off (Bike O2)” project, about 30 enthusiasts from cycling and outdoor clubs took the inaugural ride on Line 2, boarding the train at the Araneta Center station in Cubao, Quezon City, and getting off at the Legarda station in Manila.

The bikers were led by Sen. Pia Cayetano (an avid cyclist) and LRT Administrator Melquiades Robles. Also present during the launch was Environment Secretary Lito Atienza.

The riders also included this Inquirer reporter and members of Firefly Brigade, Padyak Project Foundation, Tiklop Society and UP Mountaineers.

The Araneta-to-Legarda ride took about 15 minutes. On a bike, the 6.5-km stretch would normally take 30 minutes.

‘Hybrid lifestyle’

Upon detraining at the Legarda station, the bikers unfolded their two-wheelers and pedaled their way down the next 5 km going to Luneta Park.

“This is what I call a hybrid lifestyle. ‘Bike 02’ is an invitation for a change in our lifestyles,” said Robles, who considers himself a “newbie” in cycling.

Robles expressed hope that the project would be a hit especially among the youth.

Cayetano, who had led cycling tours to gather public support for various campaigns, said she may soon start taking the “green” coaches herself, with her foldable bike on hand, as part of her everyday commute to the Senate.

Cayetano said she also planned to buy foldable bikes for members of her staff, who are composed of triathletes and competitive cyclists like her.

Bikers’ passion

“I admire the unceasing, relentless passion of bikers. They have always paved the road [for projects like this],” the senator said.

Cayetano said she looked forward to the day when one can just “take a bike going to Baguio” by getting on and off mass transit systems.

Long-distance bikers have long enjoyed such conveniences in countries like Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, United States and in the European Union.

“The Clean Air Act is a beautiful law but unless enforced, it becomes a useless statement,” Atienza said. “This is a small but very meaningful step [in fulfilling the law’s objectives].”

“The bicycle—one of the most glorious inventions ever—offers one of the most obvious solutions to society’s problems,” said Ricky Pineda, president of the Firefly Brigade, the cycling group behind the colorful “Tour of the Fireflies” that draws up to 8,000 bikers each year in Metro Manila.

For evaluation

The Bike O2 project will undergo an evaluation by the cycling groups and the LRT administration after three weeks, according to Pineda.

Mia Buñag, also of the Firefly Brigade, cited the mounting “pressure on Asian countries to step up on their climate integration measures.”

The complete set of guidelines for bikers taking the LRT can be found at www.lrta.gov.ph.

The two LRT lines service an average of about 700,000 passengers daily. Line 1, which has 18 stations along its 14.5-km stretch, offers a maximum carrying capacity of 1.3 million. Line 2 can move 600,000 people daily through 11 stations along its 13.8-km track.

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