Over the past few days, we've published stories about the government's stance against backriding (riding pillion) and how it goes against their policy on social distancing. The government has also added that, if backriding is allowed even for those who live in the same household, it might be abused by some who don't and will cause further delays along checkpoints.
Partha Saha and his daughter
In India, it seems that their government has also enacted stringent social distancing protocols similar to ours, and that includes the prohibition of pillion riding. As the world's largest market for motorcycles, more than half of its 1-billion population relies on motorcycles. Like most of us here in the Philippines, the Indians see their motorcycle as a necessity rather than a weekend toy.
To get around these rules, Partha Saha, from the City of Agartala in the Indian state of Tripura, has managed to build a motorcycle that won't break social distancing protocols. The base motorcycle was salvaged from a scrap yard and cut in half. A couple of meter-long tubes were added to extend the chassis. To power it, he then added an electric motor and a battery pack. The bike can reach up to 40 kilometers per hour and has a range of 80 kilometers in between charging.
“Now I can ride with my eight-year-old daughter while maintaining a safe distance,” he told AFP reporters. It seems that, like here in the Philippines, their public transport system has also been affected tremendously by the coronavirus pandemic. Taking it is just too risky for his daughter.
“I didn't want her to take the school bus as it would be crowded,” Saha added.
Sounds like a good idea, but that could still get you arrested here. The Land Transportation Office (LTO) prohibits modifying the chassis of any motor vehicle used on public roads. Under the Department Order No. 2010-32 dated September 8, 2010, with the subject: Harmonization of Motor Vehicle (MV) Classifications of LTO and LTFRB,
Section 5, Number 5.2 of the Order states: “The modifications involving safety and environment shall not be allowed, such as the following: Axle modification; Chassis modification; Extended chassis/body; Additional siding of dump trucks; Extended overhang; Change of rim size; Modification of handlebar and muffler; and Reconfiguration of body dimension and design.”
In the case of an electric bike, assuming that it is registered with the LTO, the rules governing it are pretty much still vague and could be subject to the interpretation of the apprehending officer.
While many motorcycle riders, as well as Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla himself, has appealed to the authorities to allow backriding under the condition that the pillion is also living in the same household as the rider, the government still maintains that backriding should be prohibited altogether for uniformity. Not even with a stretched motorbike.