Ever since the lockdown started last March, people movement has been restricted to acquiring only the bare essentials, e.g.: groceries, medicine, cash. A lot of netizens were quick to point out that, even with the quarantine in place, there were still an awful lot of motorcycles roaming around.
News organizations have highlighted this too, publishing photos of gridlocks with thousands of motorcycle riders in line at a checkpoint between city boundaries. The boundary between Cavite and Metro Manila was the most viral due to the sheer number of riders in queue.
Some of the commenters are quick to jump to conclusions, labeling these riders as kamotes (reckless riders) out for a joyride. A veteran newscaster was quick to call them all "dumb" for being out despite quarantine and for lining up in droves. Many more affluent netizens also pointed out how these motorcycle riders are on the streets, breaking physical distancing protocols. Thankfully, there are also a few commenters sympathetic to our plight.
As a motorcycle rider myself, I can't help but wonder why these people are quick to malign riders. Aren't these the same people who also patronize motorcycle courier services like Lalamove and GrabFood to satisfy their cravings for a merienda from the restaurant, milk tea, or the nearest fast food chain? Moreover, who do you think cooks the food, makes the milk tea and prepares the hamburger?
For you folks out there who are puzzled / outraged / disgusted over the number or riders on the streets, here are the reasons why there are so many, even during the quarantine.
The boundary of Cavite and NCR along Alabang-Zapote Road after rush hour.
To manage the movement of the people and combat the spread of the virus, a lot of roads were closed by the authorities. After all, the virus spreads most easily in large crowds, so by controlling movement, shutting down businesses, and restricting travel, crowds can be prevented from gathering. Unfortunately, this has another unintended side effect: bottlenecks. Due to checkpoints meant to verify that only those with the proper documentation can cross borders, checking each and every car, motorcycle, and truck that passes through these border checkpoints inevitably causes bottlenecks and chokepoints.
The long lines are because - contrary to what most think - motorcycle riders are law-abiding citizens. They're all falling in line and waiting for their turn to be verified by law enforcement officers.
Reduced public transport
Another source of large crowds is public transport. In a bid to control movement, gathering of crowds, and discourage unnecessary travel, the government has also shut down public transport at the start of the lockdown. It's only now that restrictions are easing that we're seeing buses, jeepneys, taxis, and TNV services again. Still, they're operating at half the capacity. If our public transportation was inadequate at full capacity, imagine how much more difficult it is to commute now. Even with only a few businesses allowed to reopen, and workforces restricted to half their regular size, that's still not enough seats for those that have to go back to work.
More recently, the government has mandated industries, businesses, and offices to either provide closer living arrangements or shuttle services to their employees. Yet with rent being high in business districts where these jobs are, that's easier said than done. In addition, each of these shuttles must be registered with the government to operate, and can only be filled to half the capacity. Acquiring a fleet of vans is not so easy for many companies that have been struggling to stay afloat since quarantine began.
With no real solution from the government or their employers, there's little choice for these people but to ride out to get a paycheck. Not everyone can afford a car, and for many of our blue-collar and frontline workers, a motorcycle is the most efficient, cost-effective way of getting to work. Not only that, their places of work are often far from their homes simply because the salaries are not enough to sustain living closer to these offices in more developed areas, where rent and property values are beyond what they can afford.
They're our delivery riders
If we look closely at those pictures, most of these motorcycle riders are wearing green, orange, pink, or blue jackets / vests. Those aren't the popular colors of the season. Those are uniforms of partner-riders for services like GrabFood, Lalamove, JoyRide, Angkas, Citimuber, or the many more out there operating during quarantine. Thanks to the rise of mobile apps and internet-based services, we can get almost anything we need delivered to our house (by these motorcycle riders) so that we don't have to go out.
A rider fulfilling a Pasabuy request for pizza from membership shopping store, S&R.
Buying milk tea or food from your favorite restaurant, or picking up a package and delivering them to your doorstep may seem simple, but in some cases, it involves traveling between two locations with restricted travel (e.g. GCQ area to MECQ area). If you were to go out on your own, passing through high-risk areas like these may not be so easy.
Some of these riders and apps even offer additional services like pasabuy (a portmanteau of the words pasabay [to include in an errand] and buy), where customers ask the rider to buy a specific list of things for them like groceries from membership shopping, power tools, cellphone accessories, or even appliances like a TV or air conditioner.
For those of you who've managed to stay at home for over 2 months, chances are, you've relied on them to get you essential items at some point.
They're our frontline workers
Many of these motorcycle riders are also those who work in the industries battling the spread of the coronavirus and keeping the rest of us comfortable. These are the medical industries, sanitation, food production, law enforcement, utilities, and many more.
Those who aren't working on the medical frontlines, enforcing the law, or keeping water and electricity running still deserve our respect. After all, they make sure there are enough stocks in the groceries; deliver valuable goods; cover the news for us to read and watch; produce PPEs for frontlines; drive the frontliners; ensure our power, water, electricity, internet, and mobile phones keep working; and work on vital government agencies that keep the country going.
Essential to survival
It may seem easy to simply yell at a screen and call all those who are out idiots. Yet the truth of the matter is, many still need to go out so that the rest of us can be comfortable at home. Many utilities, services, financial institutions, food providers, government agencies, other industries vital to our survival cannot run on their own, nor can they be operated remotely. There's still a need for a number of people to be out and keep these things running. And many of those people doing us that favor are on motorcycles.
Like it or not, for the foreseeable future, these motorcycle riders are part of the “new normal.” They're waiting at long lines at checkpoints to get to industries we need to survive. They have kept us supplied with the things that we ourselves can't go out and buy. And who knows, they may provide even more services for us in the future.
You see, there's so much to be thankful to these motorcycle riders for. If they have a choice, they would rather stay at home with their families too. No one wants to wait in long lines like those. But who else will get our milk tea?