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In the next few days, tandem or pillion riding of motorcycles will now be allowed provided there’s a barrier that would separate the two riders.

Only two barrier designs were recently approved. There’s the plastic barrier whose metal frame is bolted or soldered into the lower middle part of the motorcycle. The other design, first proposed by ride-hailing app Angkas chief transport advocate, George Royeca, is backpack-like, where the driver would strap the barrier on his or her back.

While there are discussions on the possibility of allowing people from the same household, same family or their relatives to ride on one motorcycle, back riding on motorcycles according to National Task Force against the new coronavirus disease (NTF COVID-19) chair and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, would strictly limited to “husbands and wives, common law couples and live-in partners”.

Several issues were raised regarding this plan:

  • Allowing back riding or pillion riding to married or common law couples and live-in partners would make no sense considering the two live in the same house and sleep in the same bed. According to the World Health Organization, current evidence suggests that COVID-19 spreads between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact—within 1 meter—with infected people via mouth and nose secretions.
  • Sen. Bong Revilla warned recently that the contraption was “fundamentally unsafe” and might cause accidents. “A divider between both riders will make (synchronization of weight) and balance very difficult as there will be no tactile feedback between them. That barrier will also impact aerodynamics greatly, also interfering with balance,” he said in a statement. Motoring journalist Aris Ilagan shared that a number of these barriers have designs that would affect the aerodynamics of the motorcycle and poses safety risks, especially when there are strong winds.
  • Another suggestion is for NTF-COVID-19 to consider requiring riders and back riders to wear gloves, face masks, and full face helmets, or if not, face shields, which will not interfere with their balance but at the same time, minimize transmission of the disease.
  • Then, there’s the cost for installing this barrier. Ilagan reports that while Angkas’ barrier would cost P200 to P250 to produce, the other protective shield design would require P1,500 or more depending on the material and modifications that would be made on the motorcycle, especially the scooter type