Sao Paulo’s Motoboys. You’ll see them everywhere when driving along the winding byways of this mega-city; the motorcycle delivery corps that keeps things moving around the clock.
Tens of thousands of them.
From side streets to freeways, these well-paid, leather-clad road warriors show up out of nowhere, skirting through traffic left and right, between lanes – inches from your side mirrors – glued to the painted white dividers like maniac slot car racers.
Think you’ll pass a Motoboy? In the urban jungle, these guys are the gazelles among the lions.
They’ll herd together at traffic lights by weaving through the queue of buses, trucks and mini-sized Fiats, Audis and VWs to take their self-proclaimed place at the head of the pack.
And when the light turns green, the Motoboys are gone, only to be immediately replaced by the next wave of riders who will repeat the process all over again.
For you it’s your daily commute. For them it’s every rider for himself.
Brazilians are world-famous for their friendliness and many of them see life on the road with the Moto Boys as just another ‘courtesy’ in coping with the crowded pace of cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
But many more are beginning to realize that this was a courtesy taken, not offered and that the long-term consequences of this traffic tolerance has resulted not in a mutual sense of respect between the Moto Boys and the Rest of The World (in Brazilian Portuguese, the word “everyone” is translated as “todo mundo”, or ‘all the world’) but in anger and resentment.
Life In The Fast Lane
To be sure, the life of a Motoboy in Sao Paulo is a perilous one. An estimated dozen or so die each day and scores more escape that fate only through their wit, experience and luck.
Maybe it’s a sense of survival that has given Sao Paulo’s Motoboys the ‘right’ to their aggressive, ‘take no prisoners’ approach in the workplace but for whatever reason, it wasn’t too long ago that the Motoboys boiled over into collective road rage, and it wasn’t pretty.
Overnight, they organized into large groups across Sao Paulo, clogging main routes through the city with packs of riders to slow traffic to a crawl at the peak of the day. And again, a few days after that – with plans for more ‘strikes’ next week.
And what was the cause of this Brazilian summer of discontent? Was it over a fallen comrade? Retaliation against frustrated four-wheeled motorists? Rising gas prices?
The spark that ignited the Motoboy flame was a new law requiring Brazil’s backstreet boys to wear improved helmets, carry insurance, provide proper riding gear for passengers, and a ban on certain highways around the city.
In short, Sao Paulo’s Motoboys are protesting measures to keep themselves and Sao Paulo’s motoring public safe.
“Banning us from these highways will force us to take longer routes, and the side streets are more dangerous,” one said. ”And besides, no one should make us wear helmets if we don’t to.”
Lanes change but that’s about it
In the end, nothing will really change, Things never seem to change in Brazil.
For most Paulistanas, the anger blurs into acceptance. It’s just another inevitable part of life, even when trying to flee the city for a long, relaxing weekend at the beach. It may not be as big a concern in other parts of Brazil, but it is here.
After all, Sao Paulo’s Motoboys will have their way. They own the roads.