CEBU CITY, Philippines – Djan Dyll Ardiente, primary care doctor and nurse, has trusted his electric scooter (e-scooter) for several months now.
Djan, who lives here on D. Jakosalem Street, decided to buy an electric scooter last March when the lockdown due to coronavirus disease was put in place and crippled public transport.
“I had planned to buy a motorcycle but with the confinement, getting a driver’s license would be too difficult. That’s why I bought an electric scooter, ”said Djan in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Since then, the 23-year-old nurse has been using his electric scooter for personal transportation and he said he was very happy to have made this decision.
“I usually spend around P200 a day to get to and from work when I take a cab. But now that I’m riding an electric scooter, it has helped me cut down on my daily expenses, ”Djan told CDN Digital in an interview.
He added that driving an electric scooter also cuts his commute time from an usual hour to around 10 to 15 minutes between his home and his workplace in IT Park, Barangay Apas.
“When you drive a four-wheeled vehicle like a taxi, you might get stuck in traffic, whereas in an electric scooter you may just find small roads and shortcuts that will get you to your job faster, and without bumping into you. in traffic, ”he explained.
CDN Digital met Djan at Gonzalez Compound at Barangay Kamputhaw on Saturday September 26, 2020.
At that time, he was with several other Cebuanos who, like him, own and drive electric scooters to take them anywhere in the Cebu metropolitan area.
Recently, the Cebu City government has warned individuals like Djan who use electric scooters on public roads that their vehicles could be impounded and could be issued with tickets.
This is after Mayor Edgardo Labella and the Cebu City Transportation Bureau (CCTO) announced that they would tighten up a provision in the city’s highway code that allegedly prohibits electric scooters from driving on the streets.
Labella, in previous interviews, also said the move was aimed at preventing accidents involving scooters from occurring on Cebu City’s roads and major arteries.
READ MORE: Banning electric scooters from major arteries, city roads are for public safety – Labella
The move drew much criticism and reaction from the public, citing the need for alternative modes of transportation due to the “lack of public utility vehicles (VPUs)” amid an ongoing public health crisis.
Read: Cebu City father bans electric scooters: “It’s premature”
This prompted Sugbo Skooteros, a Cebu-based community that promotes electric scooters as an alternative and sustainable mode of transportation, to launch a plan to help cyclists like Djan.
Dr Evanuelle Mendoza, one of the founders of Sugbo Skooteros, said her group was willing to help the city government regulate electric scooters if that meant not restricting the use of this two-wheeled vehicle to transportation purposes.
“We don’t use electric scooters for recreation. We use it as a means of transport which will help us to travel from point A to point B ”
“We met (the head of CCTO) and offered to help with regulation until there was a final draft (of guidelines on electric scooters) approved by the LTO (Land Transport Authority)” , Mendoza said.
The doctor was referring to the statement by Secretary of Transportation Arthur Tugade that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) did not want the mandatory registration of electric scooters and e-bikes (e-bikes) until the LTO issues a memorandum official or directives concerning the regulation of these vehicles.
Mendoza said that if local officials accept their offer, Sugbo Skooteros will provide consultation and technical assistance to ensure the city’s roads are safe and inclusive for electric scooter riders.
“We would like to work with the Cebu City government, and we hope they will accept our offer,” he said.
Sugbo Skooteros was established in 2019. According to Mendoza, it was an offshoot of growing interest nationwide in electric scooters as sustainable modes of transportation that could help reduce carbon footprints and the number of gasoline vehicles on the streets.
One of the main functions of Sugbo Skooteros was to inform, educate and train drivers on the correct way to ride electric scooters, as well as the relevant traffic rules and regulations.
“As a community, we watch each other once we ride our electric scooters on the roads. We all understood the traffic rules and the safety measures needed to cross the roads, ”Mendoza said.
Electric scooters and pandemic
When the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit the city of Cebu earlier this year and quarantine restrictions halted PUV operations, the membership of Sugbo Skooteros rapidly increased.
Mendoza said about 45% to 55% of people who joined their community were workers like Djan, battling the pandemic on the front lines.
“When they said they were going to ban electric scooters, they weren’t just reaching a small community,” Mendoza said.
“We are ready for regulation with the appropriate consultation. What we are opposed to is prohibiting someone from moving and crossing the road. This is why we want to work with the government and make the public understand why it is a sustainable mode of transport, ”he added.
The group takes issue with city government claims that City Ordinance 801 or Cebu City Traffic Code prohibited roller coasters, roller skates and toy vehicles or similar devices on any road, except when crossing a street.
But Mendoza, citing the initial findings of Sugbo Skooteros’ own legal team, said electric scooters did not fall into the prohibited category by Cebu City’s traffic laws.
“We don’t use electric scooters for recreation. We use it as a means of transportation that will help us travel from point A to point B, ”he explained.
In the meantime, Mendoza said his group is helping its members know what to do in case a traffic cop in Cebu City reports them for riding their electric scooters.
“Many of our members have asked us for clarification. Our legal team helps them know what to expect and what to do when an enforcement official tells them to stop, ”Mendoza said.
For Djan, the city government’s statement was “not right at the moment and inappropriate.” But that won’t stop him, and Sugbo Skooteros for that matter, from riding their electric scooters to promote their advocacy and invite more people to join their community.
“It’s not right now and inopportune given that people like me needed an affordable way to get from point A to point B when there was a pandemic going on. But I know what to say in case the authorities ask me why I am driving an electric scooter. For me, the key is to continue to be a law-abiding cyclist who obeys the proper traffic rules and regulations, ”said Djan.
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