Photographers' Blog

Mad dogs and motorcycles

Sao Paulo, Brazil

By Paulo Whitaker

Riding on two wheels in South America’s biggest city is not very safe. Authorities say three motorcyclists die every day in Sao Paulo.

The term “motoboy” in Sao Paulo is synonymous with an angry rebel, one of the thousands of motorcycle couriers also known as “cachorros loucos,” or “mad dogs.” Most of them are totally reckless, racing along the high speed corridors formed between the rows of vehicles stuck in heavy traffic. The driver of any car who doesn’t give the right of way to the “mad dog” will be cursed, kicked and likely lose their rear view mirror to a motorcycle handlebar or a gloved fist.

Whenever we Paulistanos are in traffic and a motorcyclist stops next to us, our hearts start beating faster. Apart from the aggressive behaviour of motoboys, not all of them are true couriers. Thieves take advantage of the sheer quantity of them to hide amongst them and drive like them, but to rob vehicles of bags, purses, and anything else in sight.

Recently, laptops have become the prime target for those “moto-crooks.” When a traveler arrives at Sao Paulo airport, taxis will usually recommend not to use any laptop along the way, because the risk of a passing motorcyclist stealing the computer is big.

The city of Sao Paulo has approximately 950,250 licensed motorcycles, of which around 200,000 are registered to couriers. In a city of some 20 million inhabitants, that means motoboy couriers make up one percent of the population.

A very long wait

By Beawiharta

In the morning paper I read that thousands of trucks were lined up at the harbor to cross over to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. For three days in a row the newspaper reported that trucks were stranded at the port not far from the capital, Jakarta. Traffic jams are a daily occurrence in Jakarta but this was unusual for trucks headed to Sumatra Island. On a calm day news wise, I decided to go to the port just 120 kilometers (74 miles) away.

After driving for three hours, I arrived at the back of the truck queue. I started to walk through. Truck drivers sat on the street alongside vendors. The smell of urine stung my nose.

I wanted to show the number of trucks lined up so I thought my first photo should be an overall view from above. I started to look for high ground with my goal being on top of a truck, so I needed to talk nicely to a truck driver to get permission. I thought they would welcome me with a smile when I approached them. But my prediction was off. Instead, they looked at me suspiciously as I initiated the conversation. After I told them I was a journalist they were less suspicious. Later I discovered they thought I could have been a thief or a pickpocket.

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