Negotiating the Streets–Cowboys on the Loose

I could write a 500-page paper about the many ways 1.2 million people travel around Cartagena. Take your choice: buses, taxis, mototaxis,  collectivos, bicycles, and walking.

Buses, for example, are prevalent here, and most people take them for 1600 pesos (80 cents US). The government regulates the price, of course. But the buses, some crappy and some just OK, face stiff competition from two kinds of collectivos which are a bit cheaper than the buses. Collectivos are Nissan Patrol or Land Cruiser vehicles that look like they’ve just returned from the frontlines of WW2 and seat about 6 people in the back. But taxis can also serve as collectivos heading to or from downtown. The taxi driver holds his fingers out to indicate how many more people he can take on. You can hold up your fingers, too, to say how many in your group. The taxi collectivos charge the same as the buses and can only take in 4 people. The Nissan Patrols undercut both the buses and the taxi collectivos. For the “best,” most expensive, and, hopefully, air-conditioned ride, you can simply wave down a taxi and negotiate your fare before you get in (saves a lot of grief at the end of the ride). I put “best” in quotes because if you get an aggressive driver, it won’t be the best ride. You’ll just be closing your eyes and praying that you make it to your destination. Traffic, the broken streets, water overflowing when it rains. It can get kind of crazy out there.

But wait! Besides the frugality of bicycling or walking in the heat, there’s one other mode of transportation that Cartageneros love to hate–the mototaxistas. They’re like ants, thousands of them, all over the streets, competing with each other and all other modes of transport for that one passenger who wants a cheap, quick ride (while seriously raising the odds of an untimely death). They got so out-of-hand that the city government started putting restrictions on them and now they’re not allowed to pick up passengers after 9 p.m. Many mototaxistas have no regard for pedestrians crossing the street or walking on the sidewalk, nor other cars. They are the cowboy-hooligans of our heroic city.

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3 Responses to Negotiating the Streets–Cowboys on the Loose

  1. Margarita Sorock says:

    I am a great user and defender of mototaxis. They are fast and cheap. They pollute less than other motor vehicles. They provide employment. Yes, they should be regulated but so should all transportation in Cartagena. I think the mototaxistas are unjustly penalized by circulation restrictions. Control the cars and buses, promote the mototaxis!

  2. mayadeb02 says:

    I promote free discussion here so thank you for your comment. Now that you have your bike you might not need the mototaxis. I agree that the cars and buses need control, too. I think pico y placa, alternating cars by their license plates, helps to keep some cars off the streets. They did that in Costa Rica too.

  3. Diana A Yarzagaray says:

    It certainly sounds like there are a lot of options for transportation! I am so used to driving that I don’t really like being a passenger anymore, which works out fine here, since we do not have nearly as many options as Cartagena. I am happy to say there are a lot of bikers here in C.S., Tx. and drivers are very respectful of them )

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