Claiming that they are unfairly targeted by police, hundreds of motorcyclists rolled and marched through Cuenca’s historic district on Saturday.
“If you are operating a motorcycle, you are 10 times more likely to be pulled over by the police than if you are in a car,” says protest organizer Fabricio Parra. “If you are found with missing documents you are five times more likely to have your motorcycle confiscated than if you drive a car.”
Although it says there are no exact figures, Cuenca’s transit authority, EMOV, does not disagree that motorcycles are pulled over and detained more frequently than cars and trucks. “There is widespread disregard for traffic laws among motorcyclists,” says Leonardo Morales, EMOV director. “There are also a very high percentage of cyclists on the streets without vehicle and personal registration, a much higher number than for operators of other motor vehicles.”
Morales adds: “Because of the increase of motorcycles on the streets during the pandemic, we are experiencing a chaotic situation in many areas of the city, especially in the historic district. Operators are disrespecting red lights, driving between vehicles and on sidewalks. We have recorded more than a dozen incidents in Centro alone where motorcycles have hit pedestrians, four of them on sidewalks.”
Parra claims that the majority of motorcycle stops by police are unwarranted. “These are entirely random and they happen with much more frequency than with cars,” he says. “And in the vast majority there are no violations. We understand if an operator breaks the law or collides with a pedestrian they should be held accountable but the random stops are not fair.”
Parra also claims that ticketing of motorcycles for driving between lanes of stopped cars at intersections is unfair. “This has always been allowed and police on cycles do it themselves. The rule is not consistently enforced.”
According to Morales, the number of motorcyclists working for food delivery services has grown by at least 700 percent since March, putting a strain on law enforcement. “We have not seen growth like this before and suddenly we have to manage it with limited resources and personnel,” he says.
Morales also says that the delivery services are hiring foreign drivers, particularly Venezuelans and Colombians, who do not have Ecuadorian licenses. “In our stops, we find as many as 10 percent of cyclists are not licensed and this is against the law.”