Cycling: a way of living in Metro Manila?
By Kevin Heerema and Rosan Verbraak

Editor’s Note: Kevin and Rosan are bachelor’s students taking up Public Administration at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. They are currently in an internship with ICSC, working on a research on non-motorized transport in Metro Manila.

“The Dutch learn to cycle before they learn how to walk,” that’s what most people say to us when they find out that we are Dutch. And actually, there is some truth to that. Cycling is our second nature, and we could not go a day without our ‘horse of steel’. We even have more bicycles than people in the Netherlands.

When we first came to Metro Manila and witnessed how the traffic situation is focused on transport by car and motorcycles, we could never imagine that anyone would deem cycling to be safe enough in the area. In a way, we were right. Not a lot of people cycle for their commute here. However, we experienced that brave cyclists exist within the Metro.

On November 10, the annual Tour of the Fireflies took place, where thousands of participants cycled 37 kilometres through major cities of Metro Manila including Pasig, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Marikina and Quezon City. We saw people on mountain bikes, people on BMXs, people on folding bikes and people in the weirdest costumes. However, there was one person who really stood out. Christian Sobrepeña, a father of two children in his cargo bike. He told us he brings his two children – Ian and Chloe – to their school and around Marikina Riverbanks with his bike and uses it for work as well.

The bike he uses is called the CUB, the Compact Utility Bicycle. A compact cargo bicycle modelled after the classic Dutch cargo bike, made by Alex Silva. He wanted a bicycle which could be used for carrying cargo as well as his kids, and since a Dutch cargo bike is too large for most Asian cities, he designed the CUB, which is smaller and is easy to use even in narrow or busy streets.

The CUB can bring possibilities for active transport within Metro Manila, since it combines active mobility with daily tasks, such as bringing your kids to school and bringing cargo to your work, maybe even using it for your job. By combining cycling with taking cargo with you, maybe in the future the traffic of Metro Manila could become a little bit better. And if we are being honest, when looking at the traffic here, every little bit counts.

For Christian, the CUB has been an ideal way of transportation. He can now bring his children everywhere they need to go to, and above all, the CUB enables him to get to work as well since he can use the CUB for his occupation. Also, it gave him the possibility to participate in the Tour of the Fireflies with his children.

The Tour of the Fireflies has shown us that cycling in Metro Manila is actually possible. Christian has shown us the potential to use the CUB for everyday tasks and to earn money. People do not only benefit from having a bicycle or a CUB personally, but it could also contribute to less congestion within Metro Manila.