After 116 days since placing the country under lockdown, the government will finally allow backriding on motorcycles. The only condition is that rider and backrider are from the same household.
“Simula bukas, papayagan na natin 'yung backriding para sa mga couple at 'yung prototype model na isinubmit ni Gov. Art Yap [Bohol] ay approved na ‘yan ng NTF (We will be allowing backriding for couples starting tomorrow, and the prototype model presented by Governor Art Yap was already approved by the National Task Force),” said the Department of Interior an Local Government Secretary, Eduardo Año, during an interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo.
The prototype protective shield submitted by Gov. Yap is made from a hard plastic material that will separate the rider and the backrider. The DILG secretary added that, the protective shield should rise above the backrider’s head. It should also have handles attached to its poles where the backrider could grab while riding.
“Meron naman tayong TWG na sumusuri d'yan at kaagad-agad namang kung ito naman ay safe para sa travel at talagang may barrier in between the rider and the passenger para hindi magkaraoon ng hawaan ng COVID ay ia-approve din naman kaagad 'yan. (We have a Technical Working Group that is studying the proposal and, if it is deemed safe for travel, with a sufficient barrier in between the rider and passenger to prevent cross-infection of COVID, it will be approved immediately).”
Motorcycle riding experts disagree
The proposal may have good intentions, but unfortunately, it might also be dangerous. In an article we published earlier, we asked two professionals in the field of motorcycle riding safety — Jake Swann, a certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) coach, and riding coach, Mel Aquino, of Mel Aguino’s Yamaha Offroad Training Camp — what they think of the device.
“Basically, the back rider should always wrap [arms around] the waist of the rider,” said riding coach, Mel Aquino. He further explained that, as a matter of safety, both the rider and his or her pillion should act as one during the entire ride. If the pillion doesn’t lean with the rider, the motorcycle may become unstable and eventually lead to the rider losing control of the bike.
“The rider should always be in control [of] the bike. If the backrider will not cooperate with the motion of the rider, any sudden movement will affect the rider’s control. The pillion [rider] greatly affects the weight distribution of the motorcycle.”
Aquino further added that the hard plastic divider could act as a sail, catching air and creating resistance. Any sudden gust of wind could cause the rider to lose control of the bike. He countered that, if riding slow, it should not be a problem.
Jake Swann, for his part, has also expressed concern. “They require people to wear a face mask, under a motorcycle helmet, which will probably have a face shield already and then they add this? It's paranoid overkill.”
Swann noted that, despite being restricted to one passenger, riding may be safer for two passengers because both are exposed to the open air. “These are the same people who considered 4 people wearing masks riding in a car with a closed re-circulating atmosphere safe when it's the air current that will carry the virus suspended in the air to infect everyone in the car.”
He did however point out that it is still better than nothing. The plastic barrier provides the riding public with a better option than risking it on public utility vehicles with reduced capacity and barriers.
It is also worth noting that, since May, local government officials have been asking the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to allow pillion riding among their constituents, even just for couples that are living in the same household. Local governments cited the reduced capacity of mass transport made getting around an added burden to the already difficult times people are facing.
Presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque, made the announcement last June 20, 2020, during the regular Laging Handa briefing, that backriding will be allowed soon, pending rules to be issued by a special technical working group.
While the task force had already approved Gov. Yap’s prototype, they are still accepting submissions on improved designs and proposals. MotoPinas.com has also reached out to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for more detailed specs of the shield design. These are details like the specific materials to be used for the construction of the shield, its dimensions, how it will be secured to the bike. The DOTr said the “TWG already submitted the draft guidelines for review of the National Task Force.”
Do not begin backriding until the DILG's guidelines on backriding are released. These are not the final restrictions yet.