Last week, the country's top motorcycle manufacturers said the backrider shield is unsafe. This week, the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers, Inc. (PSMEi) — professionals who are very familiar with aerodynamics and machines — have vocied their concern.
The PSMEI have released a position paper yesterday denouncing the government’s requirement for rider-couples to install a backrider shield. Their opinion echoes that of the country's top motorcycle manufacturers and motorcycle safety experts.
In the position paper written by the largest organization of mechanical engineers in the country, they have pointed out 3 key aspects as to why they oppose the backrider shield: safety, health and the environment.
On the issue of safety, the engineers have pointed out that the barrier can affect the motorcycle’s aerodynamics, which "compromises the safety of the motorcycle and the riders in general. This echoes the earlier joint statement of the motorcycle manufacturers, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha.
Second, the shield may actually cause the opposite effect and make the pillion more vulnerable to droplets in the air that may contain the virus. According to the engineers, when the motorcycle is in motion, the front of the barrier causes high pressure while its side create turbulence. This causes a suction effect behind the barrier, drawing in air instead of pushing it away. In other words, the barrier is completely useless.
Finally, since the barrier creates resistance in the air, it will definitely have an impact on fuel economy of the motorcycle and its emissions. The engineers explained that, because the barriers creates air resistance when in motion, the motorcycle will have to work harder to travel at the same speed without it, causing an increase in fuel consumption as well as emissions and air pollutants. This ultimately affects the environment.
Government says it's safe
The Philippine government, for its part, insists that the approved barrier designs are 100% safe, and have claimed that it has undergone stringent scrutiny from government experts.
Interior secretary, Eduardo Año, for example, has said earlier this month that motorcycles have already been involved in numerous road mishaps even before the shield was required. He pointed out that motorcycles are currently the number one (among types of vehicles involved in accidents) according to government data on traffic accidents.
“Kahit naman walang shield o walang barrier, katakot-takot [na] yung askidente ng motor. Nasa driver talaga yan. (With or without shield or barrier, there are already a lot of accidents involving motorcycles. It all depends on the driver).”
JTF COVID Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar has also affirmed Sec. Año’s sentiments, and has added that the shield is not the problem. He suggests accidents happen due to the rider's faulty or incorrect installation of the backrider shield.
“These two approved designs — the Bohol prototype, and the Angkas design — underwent a thorough study which includes the concept of aerodynamics and was also tested for quality safety standards," said Gen. Eleazar on Tuesday in response to several posts on social media blaming the government-required barriers for recent motorcycle accidents.