Cycling groups slam gov’t ruling requiring face shields when biking

Dec 18, 2020

No exceptions to the face shield rule, said Joint Task Force (JTF) COVID Shield commander Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag in an interview today with CNN Philippines (and quoted in the Philippine Star).

That includes cyclists and joggers.

“Ang general rule kasi outside residence dapat mayroon[g] face shield," said Binag, clarifying the IATF ruling from December 15 on required face shields for everyone stepping out of their residence. "Mag-stick tayo sa general rule na 'yun."

Cycling advocacy group Cycling Matters issued an open letter today protesting the blanket implementation of the face shield rule for bike commuters.

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It implored the government to look at the science, and take into account the “specific conditions of cycling” before it issues a clarification on whether the face shield rule will apply to cyclists.

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“We have not found data suggesting that the use of face shields while riding a bike is an effective method of curbing transmission,” the letter said. “But there are plenty of reasons why using face shields while cycling poses significant challenges to riding safely.”

Wearing a face shield, it said, is difficult for bikers if they already have a helmet on.

In addition, it could also impede visibility and breathing.

“Some face shields are also potentially dangerous in the event of a crash, as the materials used are not designed for active wear and actually cause injury,” continued the letter.

Cycling Matters concluded the letter by calling on the government to “clarify the requirement” and allow cyclists to ride face-shield free.

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Speaking to the Philippine Star, Raymond Fortun, a lawyer and moderator of the Pinoy Road Bikers Facebook page, also noted how impractical a blanket implementation of the ruling would be.

“The face shields catch unnecessary glare, fog up and create blind spots. To require cyclists to use them may create more harm than good,” he said.

While he praised the good intentions of the IATF in using the face shield rule to curb a spike in COVID-19 cases, Fortun said that face shields should be limited to “places where there would be an imminent close contact with others during the holiday season.”

Previously, Filipinos were only required to wear face shields when entering enclosed spaces like malls and indoor establishments.

On December 16, health secretary Francisco Duque noted a "sharp rise" in increase of COVID-19 cases in the nation's capital.

"We recognize that the beginning of the (holiday) surge in Metro Manila is already evident. We can see it now," he said in a virtual press briefing.

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