When COVID-19 brought a medical crisis to the Philippines, like most countries, they answered with quarantines. Shutting down businesses and public transportation left essential workers literally stranded. Front liners and health professionals were still expected to report to work but many didn't have the means to do so without a lengthy, time consuming walk.
Monica Ayala (above photo left) immediately thought BIKES! As the saying goes, 'it's as easy as riding a bike'. But getting the bike to a worker/rider during a pandemic, that's not exactly so easy. Sometimes it takes a village- and sometimes it takes a committed cycling community.
Monica works with a group called Cycle for Life and as a cyclist she knew bicycles were an affordable, safe transportation solution. But matching bikes to workers was going to take some time, there were so many people in need. As the Lend-A-Bike Davao Chapter began initially matching individual bikes with workers, Monica thought of Bikes for the Philippines (BfP), which she helped get established in Mindanao a few years ago, and working with another key community player, Cheryl Leilani Mandap-Gomez they got to work.
Meanwhile BfP Director Joel Uichico was under strict quarantine back in Manila, miles away from Mindanao. Working by phone and internet Joel, Cheryl and Monica managed to connect and collaborate on an initial donation of bikes for essential workers in Davao. But the bikes were being stored in a warehouse outside the city, and the people who really needed them were located within city limits. They needed to work on the logistics to make the connection complete.
This week they were finally able to obtain the passes needed to cross over the city line to deliver our bikes inside Davao. But they still needed to ensure the bikes were working properly since Joel was stuck back at home under quarantine. This is where the owner of EZ Ride, Martin Zaldivar (above right) comes into play. Martin is the mechanic behind getting many bikes out immediately in March when they were needed most.
Many of Martin's first bike loans went out to medical workers greatly affected by COVID-19. But there were many others needed at work, although not seen as medical heroes. A worker came to Martin and asked for a loaner bike even though he didn't fit the requirements.
Martin immediately said nonsense! "These workers represent a hospital job mostly unseen. They don't use stethoscopes or scalpels, they use mops. They don't push orders, they push wheelchairs. There are many of them, but few we know by name. They are on the frontlines as well in this fight against Covid-19. They are the muscles that makes a hospital move." That worker is now commuting on a bike loaned through EZ Ride Bike Shop.
John Paul (top photo center) is also an essential worker, but not a hospital employee; he works at a convenience store. He has been walking to work where he provides essential products for workers and those of us stuck at home in quarantine. He received one of our old bikes just this week. Martin gave it a tune up to ensure it was working properly. He then went over riding techniques and quick maintenance tips before sending John Paul on his way.
As more bikes take over the roads, cycling advocates, like BfP and Cycle for Life are fighting to keep these new riders safe. This 'new normal' may change the landscape of our crowded cities streets. The uncertainly coronavirus brings to our daily life and public interaction is forcing everyone to rethink biking as a viable form of transportation and with it, the necessary infrastructure to support it.