August 2, 2020 – 1:42pm
MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:17 p.m.) — The supposed anti-coronavirus barriers that motorcycle riders are required to install may affect aerodynamics of the motorcycle, making it potentially unsafe for both riders, a motorcycle riders’ group said on Sunday.
Speaking in an interview aired over ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, Atoy Cruz, director for administration of the Motorcycle Philippines Federation, explained that riders who are couples and who live together—the only class of people allowed to ride pillion under current health protocols—should already be safe as long as they observe minimum health standards and wear helmets, long-sleeved garments, and gloves.
“On highways where there are a lot of fast-moving vehicles, what we’re afraid of is wind dragging and wind lifting as they call it. Even if you drive slow, if a faster vehicle like a bus or truck goes past you, you might have a problem with your handlebar. Your motorcycle will wiggle and you might even get into an accident,” Cruz said in Filipino.
“There have already been riders who experienced that…so we have to be really careful with it,” he added.
The Motorcycle Development Program Participants Association, which includes representatives from Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha, has already cautioned that the barriers “will negatively affect stability and handling of the motorcycle.”
They said in a statement that this would compromise rider safety.
“The proposed pillion shield will create significant wind resistance when the motorycle is in motion,” they also said in a statement.
They said that unauthorized attachments like the barrier would compromise “years of careful planning, design and development carried out by teams of engineers to ensure the utmost safety of each unit.”
Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the joint task force enforcing quarantine protocols, has insisted the barriers are safe and that accidents could be due to faulty installation or substandard materials used.
“Let us avoid the ‘puwede na’ (good enough) mentality because we are talking about your safety and the safety of your partner. The two approved designs have specifications that conformed the quality standard for safety of the riders,” Eleazar said in July.
‘Back riding’ initially banned
The national government earlier banned the practice of pillion riding in all areas under community quarantine, saying it violates physial distancing.
Guidelines on pillion riding, or more commonly referred to as “back riding”, have since been relaxed to the following:
- All drivers and passengers must wear face masks and helmets at all times;
- A maximum of two persons per motorcycle must be allowed, provided that they are couples living in the same household. Provided further that the valid IDs and related documents shall be presented as proof that said persons are living together, married, and/or in a mutual relationship (common law wife, boyfriend, girlfriend); and
- A safety barrier/shield whose design is duly-approved by the IATF National Task Force COVID-19 must be placed between the driver and the passenger.
“We’re asking for somebody, like aerodynamics engineers who can offer a suggestion that won’t be dangerous or accident-prone. Local engineers wrote to IATF that this is dangerous, but when they presented their proposal, they didn’t listen,” Cruz also said.
“If this barrier causes an accident, who will pay for the hospitalization of our members? That’s what scares us.”
At an earlier press briefing, the Palace said that authorities would ask couples to show proof of marriage, such as a photocopy of their marriage contract, as the relaxing of rules applied only to married couples living together.
Siblings and relatives also living together are still prohibited from back riding even if they conform to the NTF standards.
PNP: Breaches of guidelines may yield arrest
In an earlier statement issued Friday, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, comprised of the government’s quarantine enforcer agencies, said that all police commanders and the PNP Highway Patrol Group have already been instructed to apprehend violators beginning Saturday.
Penalties and fines range from P1,000 to P10,000, the task force said.
Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the JTF CV Shield, added: “For more than three weeks, we were just warning and advising the violators to comply until July 31. As the grace period ends today, we expect that all motorcycle riders have already complied in order for them to avoid inconvenience as they go to work and ride back home.”
When violators were found to be back riding with people other than their romantic partners, like other relatives living together, Eleazar slammed what he said was their “brazen disregard [of] rules that the government was asking from them in return to ensure their safety from the coronavirus infection.”
The JTF-CV Shield commander is one among many public officials who pin the blame in the spread of the virus on the “discipline” and “failures” of the public despite data showing otherwise.
The task force added that other penalties for violators include:
- Not wearing face masks, helmets and non-installation of the approved barriers falls under Reckless Driving with penalties ranging from P1,000 to P10,000 depending on the number of the same offense committed;
- Anyone not married or living-in partners found back-riding will be penalized under Overloading of Passengers with a penalty of P1,000
- For drivers who are not classified as Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR), the violation would fall under Driving Without a Valid License which has a fine of P3,000; and
- And for other violations, appropriate laws would be used to sanction the violators.
“As per the NTF Against COVID-19, limiting the back-riders to married and live-in partners will serve as a test case to observe how motorcycle riders would comply with the rules to prevent COVID-19. The speed of the approval for more people to be allowed in back-riding depends on your compliance with the existing rules so let us just comply,” Eleazar added.
Eleazar said in mid-July that the limitation of pillion riding to married and live-in couples could be expanded to eventually include non-couples “when the community quarantine is lifted,” a sentiment that he repeated on Sunday.
Until then, though, commuter woes have been the new norm ever since the government’s coronavirus task force loosened quarantine rules to general community quarantine in June.
In his fifth State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged: “I know that many of you are worried not only about health and safety but also about our ability to move around and ride public transportation; the depletion of your savings due to the rising cost of goods; and the loss of your incomes due to uncertainties in your jobs and livelihood.”
He later promised: “I assure you that your government will [squarely address] these problems and challenges to overcome them and proceed to the ‘new normal’” though he did not specify how.
More than 1,000 riders penalized as police implement ‘barrier’ rule
In an update later Sunday, Eleazar also disclosed that the national police’s Highway Patrol Group apprehended and penalized some 1,350 riders on the very first day of strict implementation of the rule, with some of them even being arrested for “being disrespectful to the apprehending authorities.”
According to data supplied by the PNP, a total of 704 motorcycle riders were apprehended for failure to install barriers while “back-riding” their spouses or live-in partners. Of those apprehended, 697 were cited for traffic violations while seven were arrested and were taken to the police station.
“Meanwhile, a total of 66 motorcycles were also cited for violation even with the installed barriers since police found out that they were back-riding people other than their spouses or live-in partners. The penalty also falls under Overloading of Passengers,” the task force’s statement on Sunday said.
A total of 580 more riders were also accosted for failure to comply with the installation of barriers while having a back-rider other than their spouses or live-in partners. Of the figure, 551 were cited for violations while 29 were taken to the police station.
“We are not requiring all motorcycle riders to install barriers. But if they are going to use their motorcycles for back-riding, then they should follow the rules. The deadline for them to comply was extended twice and they were given a total of 22 days to install the prescribed barriers, we believe that it is more than enough time to do what is asked from them,” Eleazar said.
“The continuous defiance of some motorcycle riders in the coming days would only compromise the NTF Against COVID-19’s plan to eventually allow more people other than married couples and live-in partners to back-ride,” he also said.