E-bikes aren’t the problem, and neither are you

As more e-bikes start to appear on Philippine roads, the problematic state of mobility in the country reveals itself.

まもなく、本駒込、本駒込。 お出口は、左側です

Mamonaku, Honkomagome, Honkomagome. O deguchi wa, hidari-gawadesu.

(The next station is Honkomagome, Honkomagome. The doors on the left side will open.)

Amid freezing four degrees Celsius temperatures and hastily shifting winds, the comfort—and excitement—left 21-year-old me stupefied as the voice of the train announcer faded to a faint whisper. Subway trains arrived every two minutes, with quick stops at one station and then the other as we swept across the Yamanote; the kanji and katakana I’ve managed to pick up through years of consuming Japanese media have been helpful in traversing their railed train infrastructure—though it leaves quite a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

It is already a given that most first-world countries have a polyphony of mass transportation options, and the Philippines still tries to achieve these mobility-oriented aspirations. However, points of contention regarding the transportation industry have been exchanged since the first car; from promises of better locomotives delivered on time to promises of bridges connecting the Aklanon mainland to the pearly-white sand beaches of Boracay, the Philippine government has misplaced priorities regarding concerns of mass transportation.

In a society where bus stations are merely shades from the sun and where locomotives are zero to none—Filipinos struggle to travel a kilometer without having to suffer the immensity of traffic congestion. Driving in the metro area with the worst traffic according to the TomTom Traffic Index, motorists have to sit through at least half an hour before breaking 10 kilometers every day.

But in recent times, a newer method of enhanced mobility has made its way to the graces of the everyday Juan and Juana: the humble “e-bike.” Its nimble nature allows for speeds up to 50 kilometers per hour on both national and barangay roads—as well as its decent mileage before needing a charge posits a multitude of reasons why its success has skyrocketed ever since the pandemic, not to mention that a high-end model costs just as much as your run of the mill iPhone. 

But, with all new opportunities comes quite the consequences. While the Land Transportation Office (LTO) has set several classifications for these electric vehicles, these e-bikes are largely left unregistered. Additionally, the LTO has been too lax in informing (as well as apprehending) e-bike users of the routes they are able and unable to use. Category L1 to L3 e-bikes have been restricted to tertiary and secondary roads around the barangays surrounding the country, while the majority of public roads and highways are still inaccessible for these vehicles as the minimum speed limit for a national road is usually 60 kilometers per hour.

Yet,  despite these regulations, one crucial aspect has been overlooked—you don’t need a license to operate some categories of the e-bike. This sets a dangerous precedent for e-bike users because traffic enforcers cannot apprehend violators with no license or registration. No licenses also often means no proper driving training which means there is a greater chance for these drivers to get involved in an accident—a very grave outcome for such a vehicle as an e-bike with sub-par safety features.

Nevertheless, this back-and-forth that puts owners of traditional automobiles against e-bike drivers is but a red herring to a bigger issue; they are not at fault for the bottlenecks that appear at EDSA or Commonwealth—it’s the misplaced focus on privatized infrastructure.

While standing on the subway—onigiri in hand—I could not help but ponder on how the respective negative stereotypes of car and e-bike drivers get further reinforced as more snippets of bad drivers head steadfast into danger spread like wildfire online. 

Every single Filipino citizen has the right to better mobility when it comes to commuting around local cities or the rural bayan. To say that our transportation system and its corresponding infrastructure are in complete disarray would be a massive understatement; the Filipino way of driving on national roads has been molded completely into a “me first” frame of mind not because of ego or hatred but because of survival. The decrepit state of our driving culture is the byproduct of years of tolerance under bare
minimum conditions. 

And as I remember the pleasing sound of tweeting birds and bustling feet once I exited the train car,  convictions run through my mind a thousandfold. While we concede the idea that the Philippines already suffers from the monotony of a dreadful commute, all hope is not lost. Have government leaders and bureaucrats heed the needs of the people, and mass transportation would cease to be a nightmarish concept for those who wish to use it. 

For as long as the concept of mass transportation remains a foreign idea to our country’s figureheads, the minute argument regarding the sudden trend of enhanced mobility will remain a heated debacle among the FIlipino citizenry—as well as I who yearn for days wherein anyone can romanticize their commute through the urban jungles of the Metro.

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s March 2024 issue. To read more, visit

Aaron Gomez

By Aaron Gomez

Leave a Reply