Everybody knows the traffic in the Philippines is horrendous and very dangerous. The smoke, the undisciplined drivers, and even the traffic police stopping people for money. Manila is not a place to travel around unless you really have to.
For those that have to work in Manila the fumes will make you sick. Those that travel around on a bicycle are very prone to be hit, but they are also very likely to be able to whip around the polluted vehicles. But, what is it like to ride around on a bike in Manila?
1. Safety gears – Helmets are mandatory. Gloves, meanwhile, ease the chafing between your palms and the handlebar and therefore are useful. But eyewear is also important. Remember to keep your eyes protected against dust and smoke–two things that bikers normally contend with aside from vehicles and pedestrians. An addition to this point is mask, which protects your precious respiratory system from the pollution.
2. Quick-dry clothing and towel – Offices, particularly in business districts such as Makati, Ortigas, Global City, etc., do not normally have provisions or facilities to dry your clothes. Thus, it is necessary for employees to be smart about dealing with their damp, sweaty clothes. Bike jerseys or any type of sportswear made of polyester or Supplex nylon are helpful in this case. Meanwhile, quick-dry towels, which are usually much smaller and more handy, should be a better option than regular cotton-made towels.
3. Water-proof backpack (or rain covers) – Particularly in the rainy months of June to November, water-proofing is essential in keeping your belongings dry. There are water-proof backpacks available in the market. But if you do not want to shell out money for a new item, you can get a rain cover from outdoor or sports stores. These range from 150-300 pesos.
4. Kapote (Raincoat) – I think umbrellas are overrated. They render your one hand useless. Raincoats, alternatively, allow free use of your two hands, useful especially when biking.
5. Head and tail light – It is not so much about you being able to see where you’re going when it’s dark. Head and tail lights are more practical in making you visible to those around you.
6. Bell – One way for a biker to be safe on the road is to be noticeable–both through sight and sound. A bell definitely works to call attention to yourself.
7. Bike lock – If you can afford it, invest in a good set of bike lock–one that is fool-proof. Cheap bike locks get rusty over time. They are also easy to cut using heavy-duty bolt cutters. Some bikers use a set of three bike locks to secure all components of their bicycle.
8. Parking space – One of the most important elements on this list. Before setting out on your daily commute adventure, determine first where and how you are going to park your bike. More forward-thinking office buildings have space allotments for bicycles. For the unfortunate ones who would have to park outside their buildings, make sure that your bike parking is well-lit and well-guarded. But you do not want to leave the security of your prized possession on the hands of others.
9. Community – There are things that you have to get ready for as a bike commuter, which has its fundamental difference against weekend biking. Get tips and advice from those who are already in this form of commute. Talk to your friends who are doing it. The web, particularly forums such as the aforementioned pinoymtbiker.org, is considerably helpful when you need answers related to biking. Community also refers to how you treat those around you–drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists. Show courtesy on the road. Obey traffic rules. Respect right of way.