Split 2nd

How a pandemic has changed the way we move (and live)

IT SEEMS a long time ago when we could just, on a whim, hop on a car, a motorcycle, a bus, a taxi, or a train — and simply go where we want to go without a care in the world.

Today we need to make sure that, even more than money, we shouldn’t leave home without a face mask, a face shield, and a bottle of alcohol or hand sanitizer. And we cannot go just wherever we please. In fact, if we can help it, we should all stay and work or do schooling at home — at least until this newly resurgent virus is brought under control.

Going out of town? You need an RFID tag. This new tollgate feature — fast-tracked by government — required toll operators to employ cashless transactions. The rationale is sound, even if the timelines dictated were so tight that horrendous lines appeared at most tollway entry points as motorists rushed to get their RFID stickers. More problems cropped up as some machines reportedly failed to read the RFID stickers or some motorists would drive up with no load on their RFID accounts, among other issues.

Then there are the travel permits and quarantine passes, the IDs, the contact tracing forms and QR codes, and what have you — whether you’re going out of town or just to the supermarket.

This pandemic has truly and totally disrupted mobility as we know it.

So, what do we do now?

Life goes on, and being mobile is still essential. We all still need to go out to buy essentials (even occasionally, for those who acquire their essentials via Grab Pabili or similar services) and many of us still need to go out to earn a living.

Buses, jeepneys, UV Express vans, and the MRT/LRT have limited seating due to physical distancing requirements between passengers. Tandem-riding on motorcycles was banned during ECQ but has since been allowed with varying restrictions over the last several months. Even tricycles are prohibited from having more than one passenger in the sidecar, even if it’s a parent and child.

The safest way, COVID-wise, to regularly commute therefore is via one’s own car or motorcycle. Needless to say, motorcycles sales, which have been on an upsurge even before COVID-19 struck, have maintained its growth through the pandemic. Unfortunately, the number of accidents, major and minor, involving motorcycles have also grown, perhaps due to the high number of people who are just learning how to ride and are already riding on busy thoroughfares, but also probably due to the higher number of riders out there. It’s a simple statistical fact: The more riders, the higher the probability of traffic incidents and accidents.

Unfortunately, motorists on four wheels are no exception. Many people are just learning how to drive and hitting congested roads without first gaining enough experience and expertise.

Many accidents, not caused by alcohol intake or reckless driving, are caused by simple driver error that would’ve been easily avoided by more experienced drivers.

Indeed, it’s a sobering or downright nerve-wracking world out there right now. And even if we can all manage to work or study from home, there are still issues with the mental and psychological effects that being cooped up inside a house — whether alone or with others — that must be dealt with.

Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This, of course, are the vaccines that will hopefully break this pandemic by making our immune systems better adapted to fighting off the virus. It will not completely eradicate the virus, but it will allow vastly more people (#SanaAll) to survive, and hopefully, thrive in a post-pandemic world.

Then perhaps we can all just jump in our shiny cars, vans, SUVs, or pickup trucks and head on out to the beach and other tourist destinations with families and friends.

With not a care in the world.