The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced that it will be penalizing members of a bike group who installed temporary barriers on Tuesday that aim to protect bikers plying on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.
Members of Bikers United Marshalls (BUM) placed a single file of 6-liter bright orange plastic bottles that contained water. These bottles served as temporary markers for one lane of the busy highway near Don Antonio Avenue intended for bike riders.
MMDA cited the group for obstruction and will penalize each member with a P1,000 fine.
Photo from Bikers United Marshalls
“They cannot just put up bike lane protectors without notifying authorities, especially made from plastic bottles,” MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago said. “They are not enough to provide safety for our bikers from speeding vehicles. They are very dangerous, in fact.”
She said that MMDA is working with the police for other possible charges that can be filed for “putting lives of people in danger.” She suggested that for now, bike riders should use the sidewalks.
Photo from Bikers United Marshalls
BUM clarified the allegations made against them. In a Facebook post, BUM members wrote:
Bikers United Marshalls deplore the statements made by the MMDA Asst Secretary Celine Pialago threatening to file charges and impose fines on well-meaning citizens who are taking decisive actions to protect the thousands of bicycle commuters on our roads.
The statements made by Assec. Pialago are also very far from the truth:
1. The colored plastic bottles are not barricades; they are used by the volunteer group as markers while our members serve as volunteer traffic marshalls to augment the already overwhelmed traffic enforcement personnel. These plastic markers are colored very visibly and are only used during the 6-8am rush hour. According to our bike traffic monitoring, the southbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue was traveled on by 20 bikers per minute on June 1st, the first day of GCQ equivalent to 2,400 bikers in 2 hours. On June 2, the southbound lane served 16 bikers per minute or 1,920 bikers in 2 hours. During MECQ, the southbound lane served 14 bikers per minute on the average during the morning rush hour.
2. MMDA did not remove the alleged barriers. The members of the Bikers United Marshalls are responsible citizens and they pack up the equipment at 8:00AM after their marshalling duties are over. Not a single one of the plastic bottle markers are left on the road. Also, the bottles we use are NOT ONE LITER bottles as stated by Asec Pialago. We use a minimum of 6-liter bottles filled with water to ensure they do not get displaced and to ensure they do not pose a danger to both motorists and bikers.
3. Contrary to the allegation that our actions pose a danger to people, our actions as volunteer marshalls actually protect people. The fact that volunteer marshalls are signaling bikers to remain in the rightmost lane and motorists to share the road creates a much safer road. Doing nothing is more fatal. The group has also distributed hundreds of free reflectorized vests to help ensure the safety of bikers.
4. It is tragic that MMDA does not even bother to validate facts before they make unfair and unfounded accusations.
5. MMDA keeps on promising bicycle infrastructure and to hear them say that it will take time before they take action to protect bikers is utterly disappointing. Bikers United Marshalls have demonstrated that simple acts of love and courage can be done immediately and without procrastination.
As to the threat of fines being imposed on us and possible charges being filed against us, we believe in the rule of law, and it is precisely our aim to uphold a Quezon City Ordinance (SP-2636, s-2017) that declared as a principle that “Road design and setting of speed limits must take into consideration the need to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, bicycle riders, and motorcycle riders.”
We were mindful of the implications of our actions, but the costs are outweighed by the sheer number of lives at stake if we decided to do nothing. For bikers and frontliners to get hurt, it is sufficient that good people do nothing.
We believe we have done our bikers (mostly without protective gear) our humble service. If the MMDA sees otherwise, then we have to be ready for the consequences of the incompetence of our leaders.
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