Give Back, Give Light, Give BackLight Project

Some time ago a friend in our bike group, BIKEtas, conceptualized this project to give out bicycle reflectors to the daily bike commuters of Davao City, noticing that most of them did not wear helmets and mostly were not very visible to motorists. 

I’m pretty sure you notice them in your daily commute: plumbers, carpenters, laborers, workers and  ambulant vendors with the tools of their trade tied in various ways on the bike, riding their bicycles in and around the city. In the morning rush they zip through the traffic effortlessly and you may think nothing of it, but when it gets dark is where the real problem starts.

Most motorists, myself included, find these cyclists very hard to spot on dimly lighted city streets or even on main highways, and often end up nearly sideswiping them and/or cursing them for not being careful and not visible enough. Being a cyclist myself, I am conscious enough to give these cyclists the space they deserve when I’m behind the wheel, and hope that the others behind follow my lead.

At first we tried to find ways to help the cyclists, lobbying for the bicycle law and bike lanes, doing mass rides to make our presence felt among the motorists. But doing these take time with all the red tape to cut through and all so that’s where this project comes in, making cyclists visible.

Most of these daily cycle commuters do not use helmets, and a few have some sort of reflector somewhere  but these are hardly visible. We cannot afford to give out helmets and good quality lights so we did the next best thing, give out reflector strips and belts.

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We managed to find affordable rolls of reflector strips and belts and then set out to do a dry run of the project. We wanted to personally install the reflectors on the bikes and make an informal interview of the cyclists, and the best time to do it would be when they were heading home from work.

We wanted a location where cyclists would definitely slow down, and where we could set up our station without obstructing traffic so we decided to do it in front of the old Venee’s Hotel in Matina where there’s a big enough shoulder and sidewalk to safely operate from.

By [1725] we started to flag down cyclists saying there’s free bike reflectors, but some ignored us probably thinking there’s nothing free these days or it involves some kind of trade or something, but we just kept on. Eventually one stopped, so we took some time to talk to him while we were installing the reflectors, and then a few more slowed down and stopped and asked if it were really free.

Then a couple more came in and the next thing we knew there were 3 waiting for their turn, then 5 and then suddenly we were swamped by 10 cyclists waiting! There were only the 5 of us so it was all hands on deck at that point, asking and answering questions here and there, taking pictures whenever possible while installing the reflectors at the same time.

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The group continued on until [1900] and decided to call it a night being a bit tired and definitely hungry, at that point we had installed reflectors on approximately 60 bikes, most notable of whom were the 67-year old worker and the 4-year old kid who bikes to nursery school together with his father.

Those 60 cyclists shared more than just their names, age and work to us that night, they shared with us their daily struggles and hopes that they be accepted and not persecuted, and they shared with us a real feeling of happiness and thanksgiving that in our own small way, we were able to make their lives a little bit safer.


See the rest of the pictures on our Facebook Page.


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About franciscolme

I've had fantasies of touring all the 7,107 islands (well, I guess not ALL of them) of the Philippines on a bike ever since I was introduced to riding folding bikes over a year ago; it sure has opened up a whole new world, or rather, a new perspective in seeing the places I used to frequent. Touring on a bicycle has shown me sights I rarely see when riding in any other means of transportation. It allows me to take time and absorb the sights and sounds each place has to offer.

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