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By Jaime Faustino

With the COVID-19 pan­demic, the burn­ing ques­tion of the day is, “When will this end?”

We may not know when, but we have a sense of how it will end. Ac­cord­ing to a Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can ar­ti­cle, “the end game will most likely in­volve a mix of ev­ery­thing that checked past pan­demics,” and could in­clude 1) mea­sures to mit­i­gate the spread like so­cial dis­tanc­ing; 2) masks and hand­wash­ing; 3) new an­tivi­ral med­i­ca­tions to ease symp­toms, and; 4) a vac­cine to pre­vent wide­spread in­fec­tion.

De­spite the lock­down since mid-march 2020, we are only at the stage of im­ple­ment­ing mea­sures to mit­i­gate the spread. There are promis­ing on­go­ing ef­forts for treat­ments and vac­cines, but it seems we are not there yet.

While stuck in phase 1, it has dawned on me that there are sim­i­lar­i­ties to liv­ing in a COVID-19 world and mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ing, one of the great pas­sions of my life.

Both mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ing and COVID-19 can be deadly. For mo­tor­cy­cles, the risk of a fa­tal crash is 35 times greater than a pas­sen­ger car, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­cy­cle aware­ness group Dy­ing to Ride. For COVID-19, it is fa­tal for some un­lucky ones. How­ever, the ac­tual “in­fec­tion fa­tal­ity rate” is un­clear as health of­fi­cials and re­searchers still lack ac­cu­rate and re­li­able data.

Given the risks of in­jury or death, mo­tor­cy­cle riders take a risk mit­i­ga­tion ap­proach. In the words of Rick Baltz, an in­ter­nal au­di­tor and mo­tor­cy­cle rider: “It’s about tak­ing a bal­anced ap­proach to risk. If a per­son or or­ga­ni­za­tion man­ages all risks com­pletely, they’ll find them­selves stuck with­out any pos­si­bil­ity of re­ward or growth. Of course there are risks as­so­ci­ated with rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle, but un­der­stand­ing those risks and know­ing how to op­er­ate the mo­tor­cy­cle in a safe man­ner bring great re­wards.”

De­spite the risks, mo­tor­cy­cle riders take spe­cific ac­tions to mit­i­gate risks. Let’s take a closer look at those prac­tices and see how they ap­ply to liv­ing in this COVID-19 world.

1) Prac­tice ATGATT or All the Gear All the Time, where the rider has a full-face hel­met, jacket, rid­ing pants, boots, and gloves ev­ery time he or she mounts up on a mo­tor­cy­cle. The Ar­rive Alive web­site even calls all that gear PPE or per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment. For COVID-19, mean­while, this means wear­ing a face mask, eye­wear, and/or face visor.

2) Pay at­ten­tion: Ex­perts rec­om­mend that riders should al­ways look 14 sec­onds ahead, scan for pos­si­ble haz­ards as well as paths around them, and min­i­mize dis­trac­tions. Specif­i­cally, they should ma­neu­ver away from a car weav­ing its way through traf­fic, be on alert when ap­proach­ing a junc­tion where peo­ple cut across lanes, and slow down when the road gets grav­elly and full of ruts.

For COVID-19, on the other hand, the ma­jor cul­prit is close per­son-to-per­son in­ter­ac­tions for ex­tended pe­ri­ods. The con­di­tions that max­i­mize the risk in­clude crowded events, and poorly ven­ti­lated ar­eas and places where peo­ple are talk­ing loudly or singing. So, in prac­ti­cal terms this means one should wash hands reg­u­larly, avoid touch­ing MEN (mouth, eyes, and nose), prac­tice phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing, and avoid crowds and poorly ven­ti­lated places. Var­i­ous ar­ti­cles have high­lighted that droplets are ejected from the mouth or the nose when peo­ple cough, sneeze, laugh, sing, breathe and talk; and that one gets in­fected when the droplets en­ter through the eyes, the nose, or the mouth.

3) Take ex­tra care as one gets older. My fa­ther taught me to ride on a Honda CB100 when I was 11 years old. A lot has changed since then. Most things have im­proved, and we now have ABS brakes, blue­tooth, tire pres­sure sen­sors that have made bikes eas­ier and safer. Un­for­tu­nately, some things have also de­te­ri­o­rated, like my re­flexes, eye­sight, etc. And there is ev­i­dence that the risk of in­jury in­creases as peo­ple get older. Ac­cord­ing to Mark Gestring, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of surgery, emer­gency medicine, and pe­di­atrics at the Univer­sity of Rochester Med­i­cal Cen­ter, “[w]e made the clin­i­cal ob­ser­va­tion that older pa­tients—peo­ple in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s—were be­ing in­jured on mo­tor­cy­cles with in­creas­ing fre­quency.”

The risks for older peo­ple to get COVID-19 seem sim­i­lar. Ac­cord­ing to the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, “[a]mong adults, the risk for se­vere ill­ness from COVID-19 in­creases with age, with older adults at highest risk.”

Given those find­ings, I wear ATGATT, pay at­ten­tion, and take ex­tra care. With th­ese risk-mit­i­gat­ing prac­tices, I am get­ting back to liv­ing life, re­spon­si­bly and safely. And that in­cludes long rides on my Yamaha Tracer 900. Live and ride safe!

This article appeared in the July 28, 2020 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer