Back in April the Guatemalan government, following the lead taken by Colombia and Venezuela some years ago, issued the Ley de Transito-Motocicletas decreto 105-2009 (PDF file) which, simply stated, stipulates one person per motorbike.
At the time 6 out of every 10 murders in Guatemala were reportedly being carried out by gunmen on two wheels.
Bike owners were given exactly two months to equip themselves with a standard reflective waistcoat on the rear of which the registration number of their vehicle had to be clearly emblazoned. It also had to be stuck onto the back of their helmets — which for many must have meant acquiring this particular protective headgear for the first time.
For some, security’s (and safety’s) gain has been the economy’s loss, particularly the economy of families who liked to get around en masse on their moto. There have been huelgas de motociclistas (biker strikes) in various parts of the country and opponents of the new law can sign up for a Facebook cause called ‘Súbete a mi moto Guatemala‘ — Get on my bike Guatemala!
Now some of you may have noticed a patchier observance of this mandate here in La Antigua Guatemala. I’ve asked around and have been told that in fact, while the individualised helmet and waistcoats are still compulsory here, it is only in the eight administrative districts of Guatemala City that are you likely to attract the hefty Q1000 ($120) fine for carrying a passenger on your bike. I have to say I’m not entirely sure about this, and by the look of things I’m not alone.
This pic shows a pile of courier’s helmets at Domino’s Pizza just before closing time. One things for sure, the “30 minutos o gratis” decree is still very much in force here.
text and photo by Guy Howard.
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