Bike-hailing firms lobby anew to allow backriding
As Manila returns slowly back to life, motorbikes remain noticeably absent from the highways as transport regulators continue to ban pillion riders amid the ongoing pandemic.
But with public transportation still insufficient to ferry all commuters going back to work, bike-hailing companies like Angkas are lobbying to allow anew backriding although with even more additional safety precautions.
During a press briefing on Friday, Angkas chief transport advocate George Royeca unveiled their prototypes for a “backpack shield,” or high-density acrylic shields strapped to the back of the driver, to isolate them from passengers.
The design is similar to the ones introduced by Jakarta’s bike drivers when it, too, laxed travel restrictions to revive its economy. They’re low-cost, drag-resistant, and deliberately sourced to minimize additional injury to the riders in cases of accidents.
“It’s not a question of whether we want to resume operations, but how we can help out in this crisis,” Royeca said.
Since March, Angkas and the two other bike-hailing companies in the country, JoyRide and MoveIt, have been forced to pivot to food and item deliveries to help their drivers cope with the pandemic.
“Now that most people are allowed to return to work, our riders are excited to ferry passengers again, since that’s really what constitutes much of their income,” he added.
For former Quezon Rep. Winnie Castelo, the times call for the need “to be more creative under this crisis.”
The backpack shields are still in their prototype stage, as Angkas continues to study its aerodynamics and material to minimize physical harm to the riders.
Castelo suggests to modify the speed limit for bikes to reduce the chances of road accidents.
For Dr. Jun Belizario, dean of the University of the Philippines-College of Public Health, the shields are not a 100-percent guarantee against contracting the virus, “but it can help.”
“We cannot wait for a vaccine to come before motorcycle taxis are allowed to operate again,” Belizario added. “We are suffering because of a lack of opportunities to earn a living compounded by the lack of public transport opportunities during the quarantine.”
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