by: MELAY GUANZON LAPEÑA, GMA NEWS
Many people prefer to spend Sundays inside air-conditioned malls instead of strolling around outdoors. With all the cars and pollution, walking around the city isn’t normally considered a fun activity.
But today was no ordinary Sunday at Barangay San Antonio in Pasig City. As part of its Bike Ordinance Advocacy and e-Road Sharing program, the city together with civil society groups launched the weekly Bike Day, Health Day and Carless Day on June 3.
The usually busy F. Ortigas Jr. road was completely free of cars, and for once, people could enjoy the wide space without having to worry about getting run over.
Not a motor
On one end, a group of teenagers played Sepak Takraw. Bikers rode up and down the road while shoppers lingered at the different booths along the sidewalk. Walking around the carless area felt strange and almost incredible, but it was a welcome change.
By declaring Sundays carless, Pasig City follows in the footsteps of cities like Bogotá and Jakarta.
With its Ciclovia car-free program, Bogota began the open streets movement in the 1970s. Today, Bogota puts 76 miles of roads off-limits to cars once a week.
Jakarta has been car-free on the last Sunday of the month since 2008.
In the concept paper for Pasig’s e-Road Sharing Program, it is explained that “open spaces and parks are especially important to shift the present commercialism of recreation (a.k.a. the “mall culture”) to one that is more wholesome.”
The program supports recreation that restores the bonds of family, friendship, and a sense community in order to bring back the lost connection between man and nature.
The launch began at 6 a.m., with Mayor Robert C. Eusebio and the City Council inaugurating the e-Road Sharing Program and a Green Lane at C. Raymundo Avenue.
100 mountain bikes were also turned over to six barangays for the Bike to Work Loan Program, which is also under the Bike Ordinance Advocacy. The ordinance was created to promote the use of non-motorized transportation as one way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“There is a need to promote the use of non-motorized transportation, specially biking as an alternative healthy and environmentally sound mode of transportation which could also reinforce the Pasig Green City initiatives, conserve foreign exchange and promote small and medium scale enterprises,” the ordinance says.
The Banchetto food stalls are some of the small enterprises that may benefit from Carless Sundays, as hungry bikers and shoppers will find it difficult to resist their appetizing meals.
Paul Wenceslao of Wrap Battle says the Carless Day is definitely good for business, because it means more people will be walking by. Apart from being good for business, it’s also an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. “It’s unique, I haven’t seen that many cyclists on the road in my lifetime,” says Wenceslao, who was able to talk to a participant in the Bike for Life ride, which was also held during the launch.
“I’m actually curious about it because growing up I used to ride bikes, but not as serious as these guys. I didn’t know you could do so many things with it, you can accessorize it and there are all these gadgets,” he shares.
During the launch, shoppers could buy jewelry and bags made from recycled materials along the Ecostrip. Smokers could also seek help to quit smoking at the Health and Wellness strip.
A booth set up by My Shelter Foundation featured the Solar Bottle Bulb, which they bring to low-income communities through the Isang Litrong Liwanag project. Designed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the recycled bulb is made from PET soda bottles, corrugated sheets and a solution of water and chlorine.
At the Oplan Ghulay booth, plants like manzanilla and saluyot are grown in recycled plastic bottles. Shoppers could exchange plastic bottles and old newspaper and tin cans for ecobags through the Balik Bayong Program.
Meanwhile, the Firefly Brigade held a free bike clinic and tuneups with Bikezilla Bikeshop at the Bike Strip, where bikes were available for rent.
For bikers, the Carless Day is very good news. “This is a good start, a small start and I hope one day Manila could transform and have bike lanes like Amsterdam, California, or Sakai, where there are so many bicycle parking lots,” says Keisuke Taketani, a communications specialist at ADB. Taketani shares that he loves biking, but the terrible traffic makes it difficult.
Apart from bikers, shoppers, and joggers, pet-owners also appreciate the Carless Day. “It makes a big difference,” says archeologist and Firefly Brigade member Vito Hernandez, who was at the launch with his dog Leo.
“I really support carless days and carless areas. I really wish we could have more open green spaces within cities. Anything like this is welcome,” he says.
Carless Day is every Sunday from 6:00am to 12:00nn starting June 3, 2012 at F. Ortigas Jr. Road, Ortigas Center, Brgy. San Antonio, Pasig City. — ELR, GMA News