Come August 1, motorcycle riding couples will have to strictly comply with the regulations of the Joint Task Force (JTF) for COVID Shield. They have to adopt either of the two shield or barrier prototypes approved by the government, lest they’re willing to be apprehended by law enforcers.
The first design, proposed by Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap, uses a plastic barrier with a steel frame that serves as a divider between the rider and the passenger.
The second barrier prototype proposed by motorcycle ridesharing and delivery service company Angkas is worn like a backpack by the motorcycle driver.
How do motorcycle riding enthusiasts feel about this?
Mar Palmario of TPZ Motorcycle Club, who’s been riding bikes—Vespa, Ducati, KTM and BMW—for over 20 years, values safety more than anything else and has no plans of doing any modifications on his bike.
“I am strongly against [putting a barrier on a bike]. Motorcycles are not designed to have a partition or a barrier between the rider and the pillion, kasi tumutumba yan e. Modifications may lead to serious injuries,” he points out.
But many have been really insistent about allowing back-riding due to difficulties encountered by the commuting public, particularly during the pandemic. This is most likely why the government decided to implement the motorcycle barrier regulation, he says.
“Matigas kasi ang ulo natin, kaya gusto lang talaga nilang mapagbigyan ang gusto ng commuters. If they allow back-riding without any barriers, then the riders will be violating the rules on physical distancing. You cannot please everybody e,” he says.
Marc de Joya of ATAT (Any Time All The Time) Motorcycle Club is also an advocate of safe riding. In fact, he and his club members would even take local and international lessons on how to ride a bike properly.
“My personal opinion is that there is no need for a divider or barrier since the rider and the pillion passenger should both be wearing full face helmets that serve as their face shields. Both should be wearing a balaclava or helmet inner lining that serves as a face mask, as well as gloves,” he says.
“It’s unsafe to put a divider,” de Joya cautions. He’s admittedly very passionate about the two-wheel drive (“there was never a point na wala akong motor sa garahe ko.”). He rides his motorcycles every weekend and works as president of a motorcycle shop called Bikerbox, Inc., a distributor and dealer of different motorcycle brands.
“Just imagine that you are riding a bike and you’re carrying an illustration board. When the bike falls to the left or to the right, what will happen to that illustration board? It will either hit the rider, the back-rider, or a fellow rider,” he points out.
“Maganda naman ang hangarin nila,” he says of the government regulation. “The question is, yung bang nag-propose [ng barrier], nakasakay na kaya sila ng motor sa buong buhay nila? Natumba na ba sila sa bisikleta? Kasi the thing is, [putting a barrier] may ensure physical distancing, but it can pose accident risks. Naisip ba nating mangyayari itong COVID pandemic? I don’t think the bike designers had that in mind as well when they designed the bikes; it’s not really designed to have a barrier.”
With the kind of sports bikes that de Joya rides (Aprilla RSV 41100, Moto Guzzi V85TT, and V7 Stone), he rarely does back-rides. But they do have a scooter and another bike, and there would be times when his wife rides with him. “[Once the law is in effect], we’ll have to ride separate bikes na lang,” he says.
As for Palmario, riders can’t get away with the government rules, so it’s up to people whether to take the risk or not. “Kung ayaw nyo’ng mag comply [sa barrier regulation], huwag kayong mag-angkas. If plano nyong mag-angkas, kailangan nyong mag comply sa rules,” he says simply.
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But before deciding to install a barrier, riders better give the MMARAS (Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System) Annual Report a good look. In 2019, there were a total of 31,279 motorcycle-related road crashes, which resulted in 14,691 non-fatal injuries, 16,637 properties damaged, and 221 deaths. MMRAS is a program created and managed by the Road Safety Unit (RSU) of the MMDA-Traffic Discipline Office-Traffic Engineering Center (MMDA-TDO-TEC) in cooperation and assistance of the Police Traffic Investigation Department of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
De Joya aptly puts it, “What we need is [not a barrier but] a motorcycle schooling for every biker. This should be an advocacy of all bike brands.”