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.