Pedaling Towards Freedom
June 3 marked a significant day for cycling enthusiasts as they gathered in San Juan City for the highly anticipated Freedom Cycle 2023 event. This year's bike tour, organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Philippines, in collaboration with the Junior Chamber International Manila (JCI Manila), aimed to promote the freedom of movement as a fundamental human right and foster a more cyclist-friendly environment in our cities.
The allure of Freedom Cycle has grown steadily over the years, with participants flocking from various corners of the country to join the event. In 2021 and 2022, despite being held virtually, the event drew an impressive total of 2,543 passionate cyclists from places as far as Benguet in the North to Zamboanga in the South. Jimuel delos Santos, a participant from the previous year, fondly recalled the blend of competition and camaraderie he experienced, forging enduring friendships with fellow cyclists along the way. This year, Freedom Cycle returned to being a physical evnt as riders pedaled together through the vibrant streets of Metro Manila.
The surge in cycling enthusiasts traversing our roads is indicative of a broader trend. More and more Filipinos are embracing bicycles not only as a mode of transportation but also as a vital part of their lifestyle. Recognizing this paradigm shift, cities have responded by implementing cycling infrastructure and enacting cycling-friendly policies, particularly during the pandemic. However, as we endeavor to recover from the crisis, it becomes increasingly imperative to establish a comprehensive system that nurtures cycling as a sustainable means of transportation. The government, the business sector, and the public at large must fully comprehend the positive impact that biking can have on our physical well-being, the environment, and the livability of our cities and communities.
Freedom Cycle 2023, also coinciding with World Bicycle Day, holds the promise of exploring Metro Manila in unison. Dubbed Tour de Metro, participants started their cycling from different cities such as Pasig, Makati, Taguig, San Juan, and Mandaluyong, with all congregating towards the finish line in San Juan City. The different starting points was intended to immerse the participants in the vibrant tapestry of the metro; locations and routes that they may not usually appreciate or pass by in their daily cycle.
To this day, the local transport system confronts numerous challenges. Data from 2015 reveal that only 12% of the population own private vehicles, underscoring the reliance of the majority on public transportation. This, once again, points towards the importance of instituting policies and systems that prioritize the welfare of commuters and cyclists alike, instead of adamantly funnelling resources towards car-centric infrastructure. The collective feedback gathered from Freedom Cycle participants will serve as a potent tool to engage local and national officials, driving the discourse on improved mobility and sustainable transportation.
Pedaling our bikes instead of driving cars has far-reaching benefits. By reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy, and improving air quality, we contribute to the ongoing global efforts to combat climate change. A mere 5% shift from car trips to cycling in Metro Manila would translate into saving 57,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions—an invaluable contribution to the pursuit of environmental preservation.
Programs like Freedom Cycle seek to reduce car dependence in urban areas, and champion the interests of commuters, bikers, and transport workers. Cycling, beyond being a healthy and enjoyable activity accessible to individuals of all ages and abilities, embodies our freedom to move. It is an embodiment of good health and an act of environmental stewardship. Through events like Freedom Cycle, communities are forged, networks are established, and collaborations are cultivated among like-minded individuals who envision a world where freedom of movement is celebrated and safety is assured.
Fostering better road safety standards for active transportation helps improve the commuting experiences for all Filipinos. Together, let us continue pedaling forward, propelling the wheels of change towards a future that embraces the spirit of freedom on two wheels.
See more photos of the event below: