A few months ago, I received an email from one of the readers of this blog asking about biking to work. She works in Makati and lives in Taguig. She's thinking of bike commuting and would like to know if it's safe and if I could give her some tips.
Below is (more or less) my reply to her that I'd like to share with you:
To be honest with you, I rarely bike to work now, but I wish I can do it more often. :)
To answer your question on whether it's safe, I would say yes if you're used to biking on Metro Manila streets and know how to "read" the behavior of the vehicles on the road. If you haven't tried it, maybe you can do a dry run and ride to work on Sunday with the stuff that you're planning to bring.
Here are some tips based from my learnings:
1. Bring a beater bike, if you have one. As much as possible, you want to avoid your bike being noticed by thieves. Less flashy. Try to blend in.
2. Use proper hand gestures when you're on the road. Let the other vehicles know where you're going.
3. Smile and say thank you to the drivers when they allow you pass. I know we have the right of way, but that's not how they see it.
4. Bring a good bike lock and make sure you lock your bike properly. If you can park it near the guard and make friends with him. If you have a quick release seat collar, bring the seat with you.
5. Be visible. Aside from blinkers and headlights, buy reflectorized stickers and stick them on your bike, shoes and helmet. I bought about two meters of white reflectorized stickers from an auto shop and cut these to the correct sizes.
6. Bring tools, pump, patch kit, extra money, cellphone. For the tools, know how to use them. YouTube is a wealth of knowledge for how-to stuff.
7. Wear a helmet, gloves and protective eyewear. Always.
8. Have a bag cover or a trash bag that you can use to wrap your bag in case it rains.
9. Hope your office has a shower area. If not, bring lots of baby wipes.
10. Bring an ID so that people would know who you are in case of an accident. I wear a Road ID now, thanks to my aunt from the States. You can get a Life Band here in the Philippines from these guys.
11. When biking on the streets, don't be all over the road. In short, huwag kang malikot! Also, look and be aware of your surroundings before you change lanes, make turns or even stop.
Do you have other bike commuting tips that you'd like to share? Post them in the comments section! :)