By Rosan Verbraak and Kevin Heerema

Editor’s Note: Kevin and Rosan are college students taking up Public Administration at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. As ICSC interns, they are working on a research on non-motorized transport in Metro Manila.

Our three-week survey on active mobility in Metro Manila – a joint initiative of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, MNL Moves and our university, the University of Twente – is concluding today, December 13, and it feels like our research is really starting to take shape. We hope to find relevant data regarding active mobility. Is cycling and walking possible as a way of commuting here in the Metro? Or is the increase of recreational cycling in Metro Manila a more realistic option?

As citizens of the cycling country of the world, the Netherlands, we had to try cycling ourselves in the Philippines. Afterwards, we were sure about one thing: several elements need to change within Metro Manila to make cycling, as well as walking, a more feasible way of commuting here.

We Dutch are known for several things: Our clogs, our famous windmills and of course, our cycling culture. The Embassy of the Netherlands here in Manila invited us for a meeting soon after the survey was published. They are working on a similar research and were wondering if we could exchange some ideas. We both agreed to this meeting, not only because it could be a useful conversation, but also because we were excited to experience a small piece of the Netherlands within the Philippines after six weeks here.

In preparation for the meeting with the embassy – and to learn more about active mobility – we went to the embassy’s film screening of ‘Why We Cycle’, a short film about the cycling culture in the Netherlands. We expected to see only a handful of people during the screening. However, the cinema was bustling with biking advocates who were interested in the Dutch way of cycling.

We became even more enthusiastic about our research after meeting with the Dutch Embassy. At the end, we expect to present useful data that does not exist yet. These data will, hopefully, reflect what needs to change in Metro Manila for it to become a more bicycle-friendly city. We expect that this will not only concern infrastructure, but also education of traffic rules and better enforcement against traffic violations. Even more important, making people cycle actively in the Philippines requires a culture change, an aspect which is extremely hard to change.

Eventually, our research might be the baseline for something that could potentially change Metro Manila into a more sustainable and bicycle-friendly city. But as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Metro Manila won’t change overnight either. This is a project for several years, if not decades, and only if we work hard enough and cooperate with each other. And if all that succeeds, maybe, just maybe, when we return to Metro Manila in the future, it might be evolved into the next place to be for active mobility.