Reclaiming the High Street for the people

After consecutive weeks of hard riding going to, around, and back from Daang Reyna on Sundays, I took a bit of a break. Although I ride and commute at a relatively fast pace normally, bridging the 26 km going there in about an hour, my brain needed some variety.

The great thing about living in the southern Metro Manila area is that good riding awaits in multiple directions. On Palm Sunday, I decided to go northeast, at a slightly slower pace, to Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

Bonifacio Global City hosting a Honda Club Philippines monthly eyeball meeting sometime in 2004. The skyline was uncluttered with skyscrapers back then.

Ever since I attended my first car club meet there in 2003, I’ve been following how it’s changed over the past fourteen years. It has done so very quickly, and in such leaps and bounds, that it’s hard to reconcile the wide-open grassy lots of yesteryear with the cramped concrete skyline of today as one and the same place. Nowadays there’s almost no discernible line between BGC and its northern border along Makati’s Kalayaan Avenue. There used to be such a wide swath of green keeping them apart.

It still attracts the active crowd, mainly runners and cyclists, but it’s also become choked on its own traffic congestion – the price to pay for its commercial development. I find its conversion into a concrete jungle sad, to be honest. The local 1.8-kilometer road cycling loop that most riders used for training laps didn’t hold my interest long enough, so I ended up just riding around.

Riding into Bonifacio High Street, I noticed that the 9th Avenue crossing was closed to traffic going north-south. From past experience, this is normally done when there is some sort of sports event going on, such as BGC Cycle Philippines or any number of footraces, as Bonifacio High Street is frequently used as a start/finish area. This wasn’t the case, though.

Additionally, there were designated temporary bike lanes around the perimeter of Bonifacio High Street. Those normally aren’t around on weekdays.

A closer look yielded the answer. Apparently this whole initiative is BGC’s way of taking back the streets from vehicle traffic, and giving it back for people to relax, play, walk, and ride around. At the very center of 9th Avenue, on the cobbled pedestrian crossing, lay lots of things that wouldn’t look out of place on a playground. There was a limbo rock bar; a couple of poles where a span of elastic rubber opened the possibility of playing the “Chinese garter” jumping game; a set of giant slippers one could fling in a giant game of tumbang preso; and giant versions of Connect Four and Snakes & Ladders, complete with equally giant dice.

On the other side of the closed street was a bike riding clinic held by the National Bike Organization. Conveniently, the cordoned-off area had a bike rental station as well, so you could learn how to ride even without your own bike. This is a great idea. I don’t know how long they’re holding the clinic for, though, and I don’t suppose they teach hand signaling or other bike-commuting techniques, but this is a start.

This being a Holy Week ride, Bonifacio High Street had its annual Stations of the Cross exhibit with large booths for the fourteen stations. This has gone on for a number of years now, but it’s always a nice sight.

Some of the stations are more distinctive than others.

Out of courtesy, I dismounted and pushed my bike along the pedestrian footpaths for these photos.

To end this little cycling adventure, for some strange reason, this exhibit of dog portraits was put in along with the Stations of the Cross exhibit. Perhaps this was put in as a little bit of sunshine to contrast to the somber mood that usually accompanies Holy Week.

2 thoughts on “Reclaiming the High Street for the people

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