With Manila’s suspension of public transport, frontliners are finding it increasingly difficult to get to work. But Life Cycles PH is helping find a solution, one bike at a time.
At a time when Metro Manila and other nearby cities have been placed under enhanced community quarantine to control the spread of COVID-19, it’s become more and more important for frontliners to report to work. Medical personnel, grocery staff, pharmacists, and the like perform services that are crucial to communities.
Still, alongside the quarantine came a total ban on public transport, leaving these workers with no choice but to take their own vehicles or simply walk to where they need to go. On many occasions, this is an impractical situation, and some of them face a kilometers-long route that leaves them more vulnerable to exposure.
That’s when Life Cycles PH decided they could do something about it. Founded by a group of friends—including some who are cycling and alternative transport enthusiasts—the organization was created as a way to connect people with extra bikes (or those who are willing to donate bikes) to frontliners who could use them for their daily commute.
“The options that kept being mentioned were driving and walking, but this is a city where very few have cars. So we figured, why not get people biking to work?” says Keisha Mayuga, founder of Life Cycles PH. “It certainly beats walking. Bikes are great for 3-5 kilometer commutes, and they’ll allow our frontliners to focus on their work, without having to compromise their immune systems by walking in the heat.
Since its founding—just a few days ago—Life Cycles PH has become something of a phenomenon, and has raised over 850,000 PHP (16,600 USD) in donations, turned over more than 100 bikes to frontliners, and has matched over 100 borrowers and lenders. They’ve also placed orders for more bikes, which are now on the way.
And here’s how the system works. Cash donations can be facilitated through their Facebook page, then Life Cycles PH acquires the most durable, beginner-friendly, and affordable bikes they can source locally. It costs 5,000 PHP (roughly 100 USD) for each bike, and they are then handed over to institutions for distribution, with suggestions on how to best maximize their use.
“Right now we’re working with the Pasig and San Juan LGUs, who need to place bikes in the hands of their health workers and frontliners,” says Mayuga. “The demand for bikes is significant, and we’ve probably gotten requests for more than 500 bikes in just the past three days.”
For those who donate actual bikes instead, the group has volunteers who can pick them up in Mandaluyong, Pasig, San Juan, Quezon City, Marikina, Taguig, Makati, and Parañaque. While there are willing bike donors in other areas, the group only has the capacity to work in Metro Manila.
But that’s why Life Cycles PH set up a community page on Facebook, where people from outside Metro Manila can reach out to each other. The page categories its members as lenders or borrowers, making it easier to navigate and find a match.
Beyond the current pandemic, though, Life Cycles PH hopes that this initiative paves the way for people to consider cycling as a regular means of mobility.
“Hopefully, the users realize that it’s a sustainable means of transport, and maybe it becomes sensible for them to upgrade. It’s possible that these bikes can be ‘gateway bikes’ for a lot of potential new cyclists, so it’s also possible that they are passed around for those who eventually want to try cycling to work, even after this crisis.”
With no end to the pandemic just yet, it may be a while before we see that happen. For now, Life Cycles PH is focused on scaling their operations. And in that regard, they could use some help.
“The big question is funding,” Mayuga explains “The donor response has been overwhelming, but the challenge is continuing that momentum. The fantastic bike shop owners are also already giving us big discounts for the bikes—but we’ll see how much more efficient we can get if we can find the funding.