Santiago's two-wheeled taxis


An operator collects his fare. The average ride is just 10 pesos.
    ELSEWHERE IN Cuba, the usual taxi is a Hyundai or a Lada for locals, a '56 Ford or similar classic for tourists.
   In Santiago, the usual taxi – for locals, and for visitors brave enough to board – is a Soviet-era MZ or Jawa motorcycle. Hundreds of these bikes-for-hire race up and down the southern city's hilly streets, piloted by young men who typically rent the machines from taxi brokers.
   The fare is just 10 pesos (50 cents Canadian), maybe 20 if the destination is farther than usual. But if you hail one, make sure to buckle the spare helmet the driver carries for passengers. And then hang on as he weaves casually through traffic, blue smoke from the bike's two-stroke engine mixing with diesel fumes from the trucks just inches away.
   Unlike in Havana and other cities, there seems to be little police effort to maintain vehicular calm. It's one more way in which Santiago is different.

Pedestrians are well advised to watch for the weaving bikes.
Two-stroke engines add to Santiago's pollution.
Many operators rent their motorcycles from taxi brokers.


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