Friday, August 12, 2005

On the Saddle

Rational Technology for August 14, 2005

Arguably my best purchase ever since I moved back to Dumaguete on a more permanent basis was a twenty-one speed mountain bike. I bought it as a means of exercise but it's become much more than that. In the past few months it's become my primary means of mobility within the city. It's also become my travelling partner to the little nooks and crannies of Dumaguete that I normally wouldn't have considered visiting.

Except on days when it's raining heavily, I average two five-kilometer trips from our house in Piapi to Lee Plaza and back. With gasoline prices rising almost every other week, I'm certain I've saved quite a lot in fuel prices over the past few months. And believe it or not, it takes almost as much time to travel from Piapi to the city center on a car or tricycle as it does on a bicycle. Rush hour can snarl you up in traffic, even when you're on a motorcycle, but a bicycle has far greater flexibility in navigating the tight spaces between vehicles.

There's a whole different perspective from a bicycle, too. I've gone on the alternate routes to Sibulan by way of the coconut groves of Motong, and trips up to Valencia through Batinguel and Candau-ay. For those looking for more leisurely rides, there's always the Piapi highway and the Dumaguete boulevard. These are routes that I wouldn't have discovered if I hadn't taken my bicycle. Travelling on a bike, you get to appreciate the natural beauty that abounds in Dumaguete. So, too, do you see the promise of the countryside that is yet to be fulfilled.

I'm surprised that not too many Dumaguetenos are taking to the bicycle, choosing instead motorcycles, tricycles, and even cars as their primary mode of transport. Dumaguete is an ideal city for biking, what with the newly paved roads and the shady acacia-lined avenues. Most locations within the city are quite accessible by foot, and a bicycle can make those trips faster. Bicycles, too, can be almost as fast as tricycles, if you consider the usual entanglements and detours that those have to make.

If there aren't more cyclists, perhaps we can trace it to an aversion to biking in the heat or in the mud. Both reasons might be valid, but I might ask if they aren't worth the little sacrifice every now and then. The heat really isn't all that bad, what with the outspread arms of the acacia trees and the cool breeze blowing in from the sea. And mud can be a little fun, just so long as you remember to bring a change of clothes. Then again, cycling really just isn't for finicky socialites.

A more valid concern might be safety. Cyclists are on the lowest tier of the traffic totem pole, and oftentimes there's no contest in a competition against the hundreds of other tricycles plying the streets. Seeing as how Filipinos drive, the burden of responsibility of safety is really on the rider. Thus, the usual precautions: give way, wear adequate protection, especially a helmet, and keep eyes and ears open at all times.

But then again, wouldn't it be nice if the city actually allocated bicycle lanes for the exclusive use of cyclists? Wouldn't that encourage more people to use their bikes? Just a thought.

If you're looking for a good bicycle in Dumaguete City, check out Sanco Bicycle Center. Department stores like Super Lee Plaza also offer a selection of bicycles.