On Vico Sotto and why this tweet and Instagram story is important

The social media posts of Vico Sotto about bikes, cars and motorcycles and why they’re more than just a tweet and an Instagram story

Cycling along Doña Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City used to be a pain in the ass, literally and figuratively. We remember cycling here to work with a road bike wishing that we had thicker tires because it felt like we were on a trail. Our chain got broken here too, perhaps it got battered by the bumpy pavement.

But it’s not just a challenge for road bikes, we saw comments from cyclists who use foldies and mountain bikes complain about how terrible and dangerous this avenue used to be.

So it was good to learn that the road was fixed after watching a Facebook clip titled “Before & after ng sira-sirang kalsada sa Pasig” uploaded by cyclist-vlogger Eloiza Regaliza last February. We visited it recently and it was a pleasant surprise to see protected bike lanes.

And then here goes Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto tweeting and uploading an Instagram story about J. Vargas Avenue.

“Although some car owners will continue to complain and will ask for the 3 car lanes back, 2 car lanes + motorcycle lane + bike lane will actually have higher carrying capacity,” he wrote on his Instagram story and tweet last March 18. “Of course we should also note that this improves road safety and promotes alternative transport.”

We need more leaders like Sotto, someone who recognizes the behaviors of his constituents, studies the situation and stands firm on what is better for everyone—with an explanation that would easily be understood by many.

He said that car owners will continue to complain, that’s expected. Even an enforcer in J. Vargas didn’t like the idea of bollards on the road, telling us that traffic will build up and said that it will not be effective because cars will just hit it. He noted that stainless barriers in other parts of Pasig were destroyed by motorized vehicles.

“Kaya dapat hulihin niyo sila at kung matino sila mag-maneho, hindi nila ‘yan babanggain. Nilagay ‘yan para mag-ingat sila mag-drive kasi nakakamatay kapag nakabangga ang sasakyan,” we told the enforcer.

We recognize that the car-centric society of the Philippines shaped his way of thinking, something that’s not ideal in our roads. That’s why being proactive on road safety and educating the public about efficient road use, demonstrated by Sotto, is very helpful. If you scan his social media, you’ll find more of this: no pretensions and pambobola, just effective communication.

The simple act of being vocal about this, especially coming from a public figure, increases awareness to everyone: that all road users are important, that leaders give value to the vulnerable and that there’s no favoritism. We need more officials who are vocal with what is really good to the public, supported by evident and tangible solutions.

The credit doesn’t go to this young mayor alone but also to the brilliant minds behind Pasig Transport. If you’ve been updated with news, this city has been lauded with its pandemic response, particularly in terms of moving people.

We should note that different kinds of bike lanes are all over the city too, protecting the vulnerable road users in Pasig. Though there are areas, according to some Pasigueños, that need urgent maintenance like Eulogio Amang Rodriguez and C. Raymundo avenues.

Pasig City’s bike lanes and other bicycle infrastructure are not perfect but we’re pretty impressed with the progress and because it’s not mediocre. We’re hopeful to see more improvements.

They have good public bike racks too, kudos for spending public money wisely. People can use it for free, way more practical than paying 55 pesos to lock your bicycle in a grassy corner inside a private parking lot in Ortigas.

To be fair, changes in roads for efficiency are also done effectively by other local government units like San Juan and Iloilo City. There are more and we wish to tell their stories too. The point is, protecting vulnerable road users and better road layouts can be done if there’s political will from good leaders.

We were unlocking our bicycles from the bike rack beside a security outpost in ADB Avenue while strategizing our way back home to a city that’s not that bike-friendly. We asked for tips from a lady officer who owns an e-bike.

“Buti pa sa amin sa Pasig madaming bike lanes, hindi mahirap umuwi.”

(It’s good that there are many bike lanes in Pasig, it’s not hard for us to go home.)

Sana all.

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