Common Tread

Motorcyclists in Colombia protest ban on male passengers

Feb 05, 2018

London and Paris have restricted motorcycles to cut pollution and London has considered restricting passengers to reduce crime, but a ban on male motorcycle passengers has now gone into effect in another capital city.

In Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, the government has banned motorcyclists from carrying a male passenger in parts of the city in response to a spate of robberies by criminals using motorcycles as their getaway vehicles.

The prohibition on passengers went into effect on Friday, lasts three months and only applies to a part of the central city where government officials say 15 percent of city residents live but between 40 and 50 percent of the motorcycle-related robberies have occurred.

Not everyone is affected. The ban only applies to male passengers over age 14. Women and younger children can still ride as passengers. Also, motorcycles under 125 cc, which account for about half the motorcycles registered in the capital city, are exempt. But if the government thought that limiting the breadth of the ban would minimize complaints, it miscalculated. Riders of all types and on all kinds of bikes responded angrily and said they are tired of being stimgatized.

Motorcyclists protested the restrictions by flooding the streets during morning rush hour to disrupt traffic. Several clashes between police and protesters resulted and dozens of motorcycles were seized, as shown in the news video below. The two men nearly in tears at the 1:20 mark of the video were complaining that their motorcycles were seized although they were just trying to go to work, not block traffic.

Other cities in Colombia have also put restrictions on motorcyclists, ranging from not allowing motorcycles on the road on holiday nights to prohibiting pregnant women or children under 12 as passengers. The city of Popayán banned the use of motorcycles for three full days in January during the Three Kings holiday. Previously, other cities also banned passengers, and courts struck down some of those laws. But the local news media have characterized the response by riders to the Bogotá restriction as stronger than previous reactions.