Pedaling through the Pandemic: Countermapping through Cycling and Rethinking Safety and Safe Spaces for Cyclists in the “New Normal”

  • Reidan M. Pawilen


The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on people’s everyday lives in the Philippines. Various means of public transportation in particular were halted as strict quarantines and physical distancing measures were imposed in the government’s attempt to curb the rising number of cases in the country. Employees therefore needed alternative modes of transportation to be able to move, get to work, and engage in various means of livelihood especially in urban settings. The bicycle of course was one of the alternatives leading to a somewhat pandemic-induced bicycle boom from the years 2020 to 2021. The rising interest in cycling also put to fore issues and concerns regarding cycling safety prompting government agencies and Local Government Units to establish policies aimed at protecting individuals who will be using cycling as a means of transportation during the pandemic. Despite the temporary improvements in policy, the continuation and sustainability of such measures beyond COVID remains a question considering that there are already ten cycling related bills pending in Congress since 2011 signifying the lack of prioritization in terms of implementation. Furthermore, these said laws perpetuate an built-environment-centric ideas of safety spaces for cycling that eventually influence mapping practices wherein bike lanes along major  routes and bike shop locations are prioritized. This undermine significant elements that should also be factored in the creation and mapping of safe spaces for cycling in the Philippines: the Filipino cycling community and culture.

This paper therefore interrogates the idea of safe spaces for cycling in the new normal by going beyond built-environments for cycling and emphasizing the importance of understanding the Filipino cycling community and culture and how cycling can be used as a method in countermapping urban and rural spaces. This includes a review of literature on the inter-relationship of cycling culture, mapping, and policy as well as discussions on how the bicycle is part of the network of Filipino cyclists influencing the formation of various types of cycling community, cultures, and perceptions of safety. Auto-ethnographic and participatory observation approaches is utilized since the author is also a part of the cycling community.