I like long solo rides or epic rides with a small group. I like rides up in the mountains where the view and the fresh air make it worth the effort. These are the kinds of rides I usually do—the kind of bike rides I really enjoy.
But I also see the value in joining critical mass rides or CMRs. These are gatherings of hundreds, and sometimes thousands of bikers to ride on streets normally claimed by cars and other motorized vehicles. I believe that biking should not just be a means for having good, clean fun outdoors; it should also be a means for keeping the outdoors good, fun, clean and free from toxic suffocating oily halitosis that seems to perpetually choke our cities. And yes, I believe the urban landscape is also part of the great outdoors.
As a former tibak from Peyups, I also like the idea of thousands of cyclists taking over the streets to demonstrate their collective power. Last Sunday, November 23, cyclists from all over Metro Manila joined the first National Bike Day (NBD). Thousands more joined them in the provinces in a nationwide push to promote cycling as a viable means of urban transport, and to pressure the government to make the roads safer for cyclists.
Interestingly though, it was also on this day that Kara and I found out first hand just how unsafe Metro Manila’s most well-known road is for bikers. Calling Edsa unsafe is putting it very mildly. Para kang nakikipagpatintero kay kamatayan is more like it.
We originally wanted to do the less challenging NBD North Loop which would pass through San Juan, Manila, Navotas, Malabon, Caloocan, Quezon City, Marikina, and Pasig. But we wound up at Tiendesitas instead where thousands of eager bikers were itching to test themselves on the much longer and harder NBD South Loop going all the way to Muntinlupa and Las Piñas before going back to Pasig.
Since we had joined several Firefly tours before, we thought we knew what to expect in this ride. But the sheer length of it still surprised us. I mean, it’s not everyday that you get to bike from Pasig all the way to SLEX and Las Pinas. This is a route normally traversed using cars or buses.
As the ride went on, the ‘peloton’ got stretched and thinned, and we got separated from the main group along the way to Macapagal boulevard. Kara and I decided that the best way to rejoin the group was to do a shortcut. But because I was unfamiliar with the road layout of Roxas boulevard, we wound up on Edsa. Big effin mistake.
Edsa is really the pits. It’s one thing to bike through kilometers of trails and mountain roads bereft of smoke belching buses and irate Suvs of b*tches. It was another thing to ride smack straight into the thickets of Car-mageddon.
The MMDA’s much hyped “bike lanes” were of no help. At certain sections of these sidewalks deceptively rebranded as ‘bike lanes,’ the width of the pavement got so narrow that even a kid on a Stryder would’ve had a hard time getting through.
Bike lanes kamo? Magseryoso naman kayo. E kahit pedestrian di gagamitin to.
A lot of times, we had to get off the unbikable bike lane and ride on the road itself–a feat which scared me more than riding downhill on Shotgun in the downpouring rain. One bus overtook another bus and passed at full speed just inches away from us. Scary as hell.
We were finally able to exit this hell road on reaching the Edsa Central complex. Exhausted by this ordeal, we opted to just bike our way home to UP instead of going back to Tiendesitas.
The silver lining here is: we made it just in time for the Pacquiao-Algieri fight! Unfortunately it was a boring beat down. Or maybe that ride along Edsa had already drained me of any capacity for excitement.
Sayang ang feature na ito ng Word of the Lourd. This should have been shared days before the NBD ride.
Anyway, to the brave souls who brave Edsa on bikes to get to their jobs, I salute you. You are way more hardcore than any downhiller on Earth.