Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kicking Back with Padyak

Padyak bikes

What is a creative solution to society’s problems? VirtualSalt’s Robert Harris lists the elegant evaluation criteria, summarized as SENC. It should be SUCCESSFUL in solving the problem, overcomes constraints and is acceptable to users or beneficiaries. It is EFFECTIVE in that it is practical, economical, and reliable. It is NEW in that it is original, surprising, and seminal for its further possibilities. It is COHERENT because it is organic, holistic, of high-quality, well-designed and executed, refined, tested, improved, and aesthetic/beautiful.

I would add IBLE to the acronym. The IMPACT is significant in the societal sense. It BUILDS CARING COMMUNITIES. It presents opportunities for individual LEARNING and LEADERSHIP development. Lastly, it creates an ENABLING ENVIRONMENT for all of the above. Thus, a creative solution is Successful, Effective, New, Coherent, produces significant positive Impact, Builds Caring Communities that Learn, as well as Leaders, for an Enabling Environment (SENCIBLE).

Colorful Padyak bikes and artistic discs
Colorful Padyak bikes and artistic discs

The Philippines, being a center of innovation vis-à-vis civil society, has many examples. The Gawad Kalinga GK777 movement easily comes to mind. GK is not alone. In my recent visit to Manila, the Padyak initiative of the University of the Philippines Mountaineers (UPM) is one such SENCIBLE solution to the difficulties of seemingly permanent high fuel prices and a degraded urban environment. The UP Padyak Project was started by UP Mountaineers members and alumni to give back to the University of the Philippines during its centennial celebration. The project is an environmental advocacy that promotes biking as a means of transportation, which helps reduce air pollution, lessens dependence on fossil fuels, and promotes a healthy lifestyle in the UP Diliman campus. As the Padyak-ers advocate, “BIKE FOR U.P. BIKE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.”

Since the summer of 2008, through funding support of several UP Mountaineers and using the principle of padugo, bikes were purchased and provided to students for a minimal donation of P500 per semester. These bikes are reconditioned, one-speed, have a step-through frame, and are designed for utility and safety and not for speed. About 43 bikes have been purchased, spruced up with lively colors, Padyak bike discs, bike baskets for books, and bike horns. Bike users must have helmets, a bike lock, and participate in a Padyak-sponsored bike clinic. Bike pumps are strategically located within the campus. UPM members and friends have spent at least P200,000 on the bikes, racks, and incidentals.

Padyak bike clinic for bike users
Padyak bike clinic for bike users

The creativity abounds. UPMers from the College of Fine Arts helped in designing creative bike disks and sculptural bike racks that allow all bike commuters to park their bikes and enliven the campus through public art. Talented artist and UPMer Eng Chan designed and constructed the Pencil, Kalabaw, and Tuyo bike racks which were strategically placed within the campus. Each rack can hold 12 bikes, and occupies the equivalent of one car parking slot. Other members connected with RAADesign, and StrayInteractive designed the colorful bike discs.

Eng Chan\'s \
Eng Chan's Kalabaw rack

A core group led by Eng Chan and UPMer architect Gerry Ramos is spearheading the creation of a bamboo bike in partnership with Carolina’s Bamboo Garden. The bikes will be tagged and named after birds, starting with birds found within the UP campus, per the suggestion of UPMer and philosophy professor, Gerry de Villa.

UPMers Gerry Ramos and Eng Chan with ANOS bamboo at Carolina's Bamboo Garden
UPMers Gerry Ramos and Eng Chan with ANOS bamboo at Carolina's Bamboo Garden

Padyak has resonated with many sectors of UP and beyond. Media has covered Padyak with nearly all the major TV stations and newspapers featuring it. The UP administration has fully supported Padyak. In fact, over the summer, it made the academic oval road, not only one way, but one half reserved permanently for bikers, joggers, and walkers only. Padyak has been able to help the security brigade in UP with a commitment to help them fix their broken down bikes. Padyak has opened up opportunities. The bike racks are such a hit that one vendor said that the racks attract more customers to his cart. Bike enthusiasts have volunteered to help repair Padyak bikes that break down.

Several companies are interested in an advocacy and social marketing partnership. The partnership comes with a commitment on their part to donate bikes, while UPM counterparts the bike donation with tree planting activities. The running activist priest and my fellow anthropologist, Fr. Robert Reyes, has bought into the program, donated bikes, and is recruiting fellow UP alumni in Hongkong, where he is stationed now, to support the project.

Padyak is fast evolving. It has grown beyond a UPM Batch 88 anniversary project, with batch members graciously allowing it to become a UP Mountaineers project. Its initial success has generated high demand for Padyak bikes. Padyak organizer, UPMer, and architect Jojo Gutierrez reported that there is now a waitlist of at least 85 students, with more requesting. UP has a student population of around 20,000. Fellow UPMer and sociology professor, Dr. Ging Candaliza-Gutierrez said that even non-teaching staff have been asking her if they can avail of the Padyak bikes.

The \
"Pencil" bike rack

The request is understandable. I never realized how much an IKOT jeepney ride (used to get from one school building to another within the UP campus) costs these days. From a low of 50 centavos in the 1980s, a ride now costs seven pesos. A UP student, on a typical school day, will take 2-4 rides to get to classes in different buildings. Because of its fixed route, an IKOT ride will also take 15-30 minutes each way. Imagine the costs and time wasted by the Iskolar ng Bayan. Padyak doesn’t want to put IKOT jeepneys out of business, but Padyak complements IKOT and will hopefully encourage IKOT jeepney drivers to evolve.

Mt. Everest summiteer and UPMer, Romy Garduce, posing for Padyak
Mt. Everest summiteer and UPMer, Romy Garduce, posing for Padyak

Padyak hopes to encourage other groups, especially corporations and schools/universities to start their own Padyak programs. Padyak afterall promotes the use of the most efficient self-powered alternative means of transportation man has ever invented. This is because moderate biking uses the same energy as walking. It encourages more civic interaction in a campus or office setting. It promotes a healthy lifestyle. It saves on fuel costs. It encourages partnerships across a wide swath of sectors. Lastly, it creates possibilities for expansion and further iteration in creative solutions.

Kicking back with Padyak is indeed SENCIBL