Barriers on motorcycles deemed unsafe by engineers

·3 min read

A MOTORCYCLE barrier cannot serve as a health and safety measure to protect riders from Covid-19; instead, it may compromise safety, health, the economy and the environment.

This is according to the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers Inc. (PSME) in a position paper it submitted on July 23, 2020, on the measure approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management for the Emerging Infectious Diseases and set to be implemented by July 26.

Pillion riding (backriding or angkas) has been allowed since July 10 for couples living together in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), provided a barrier is installed between the driver and the passenger to prevent coronavirus transmission.

Jeffrey Singson, PSME national president, said their stand is based on the science and engineering of how air interacts with moving bodies called the fluid dynamics or aerodynamics in engineering.

He said the barrier attached to the motorcycle, to the rider, or being held by the back rider compromises the safety of the motorcycle and the riders in general.

PSME said: “When the motorcycle is in motion, the barrier will contribute to the change of the designed allowable aerodynamic forces (drag and lift) which will compromise the stability of the motorcycle. This will place the safety of the riders at risk.”

The group also said with the barrier attached when the motorcycle is in motion, the front side of the barrier builds up pressure while creating turbulence and suction behind the barrier.

The group said such will not guarantee that the barrier will be effective in protecting both riders from the spread of air particles to each other.

Moreover, the group said the attached barrier increases the air resistance of the motorcycle when in motion.

This directly affects the economy of the motorcycle resulting in the increase in fuel consumption which contributes to the increase in emission and air pollutants which affects the environment.

Earlier, Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar, Joint Task Force Covid Shield commander, issued a reminder after several social media posts blamed the barriers for accidents.

He said the two approved designs, the Bohol prototype and the Angkas design, underwent a thorough study which includes the concept of aerodynamics and were also tested for quality safety standards.

“Before approving them, our NTF Against Covid-19 made sure that the barriers are not only effective to shield both the riders from coronavirus infection but also safe from road accidents,” he said. NTF refers to the National Task Force Against Covid-19.

Eleazar said these barriers should be made of materials prescribed in the design and should be installed properly to avoid any accident.

The price for these barriers as manufactured in a store in Lapu-Lapu City ranges from P2,500 to P3,000.

The prototype developed by Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap consists of a steel frame soldered onto the middle part of a motorcycle with plexiglass or plastic attached to maintain physical distancing between the driver and his passenger.

The height of the barrier may vary depending on the type of motorcycle.

The Angkas design, meanwhile, requires the driver to wear the barrier like a backpack.

Angkas said the barrier, which weighs one kilogram, uses plastic materials to make disinfection easy and ensure road safety.

Meanwhile, motorcycle riders were given five more days to comply with the requirement of the NTF Against Covid-19 to install a barrier between driver and passenger to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

Eleazar said the NTF extended the deadline in response to mounting requests for more time.

“This is proof that the NTF Against Covid-19 understands and listens to the concern of our motorcycle riders, and in return, all we ask is compliance from their end because this particular rule was made for their own protection from coronavirus infection,” said Eleazar.

He said motorcycle riders may secure from authorized motorcycle dealers barriers that comply with the approved specifications.

Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Eduardo Año said the requirement for barriers was set in anticipation of riders disregarding the couple-only policy. (WBS / SunStar Philippines)