Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Second Mass Demonstration "For A Fair Tag"

Originally posted to El Cantar de la Lluvia on Saturday, May 19, 2007

Last week, on Saturday, some 4000 motorcyclists met to protest the highway operator's decision to begin charging motorcycles an unfair toll to use Santiago's new urban highways.

Things didn't stop at that: throughout the week, small groups of between 20 and 30 motorbikes created wall-to-wall "plugs" moving at no more than 30 km/h, on every single urban highway in Santiago, morning and night, at rush hour. This was Thursday night, on Américo Vespucio Norte, pausing before turning around to go back the other way.

This created utter chaos. We started getting airtime on the news. Predictably, journalists did not bother to ask why this was happening, beyond a simplistic "they don't want to pay".

Neither the highway operators, the concesionarias, nor the government lifted a finger to advance the issue. A second mass demonstration was held, this time on a Friday night, at rush hour, the night before a long weekend.

We met at the same location as last time. I met Nazareo, the man that bought my XR 125 L. He has somehow fallen into the rôle of an organizer and coordinator of the motorcycle resistance movement, along with a few others chosen more or less at random by fate and a strong motivation.

When it came time to leave, the air became almost unbreathable.

Several minutes passed without incident, rolling along at a very slow speed, when suddenly we stopped. I filtered forward in the column to figure out what had happened. I saw the driver of a red car and a motorcyclist talking with a Carabinero. But why had we stopped? This should not have happened. If someone stays behind, he stays behind: the caravan must continue on its way. Instead, it seems that a club took it upon themselves to stop everyone and wait. At the head of the interrupted column, a Carabineros BMW motorcycle, stopped sideways. Was it really the club that decided to cut the column?

After a long wait, we carried on.


Here's Chico. You'll remember him from the ride to Lagunillas.

I also met the same highway service crew motorcyclist that rode with us the other night. For him, it was just another day at the job. He commented that he found our demands to be reasonable, particularly those of changing the impact barriers that line the hundreds of kilometres of the autopistas, so they didn't act as guillotines in case of an accident. He has seen so many motorcycle accidents end in a very bad way that riding that big bike, for him, is no enjoyable task, no fun at all.

Most of the overhead display panels gave objective and useful information, but one of the autopistas decided to announce "SLOW TRAFFIC BECAUSE OF MOTORCYCLISTS FAULT". Quite professional, wouldn't you say?

As we rode under the billing portals, most everyone gave them the finger, grabbed their crotch or did something else.

Polo and girlfriend.


The next day, Nazareo told me that two guys on enduro bikes had come right up to one of the jeeps leading the caravan. "Stop! You've gotta stop!". They didn't offer any explanation, they were just very excited. Nazareo came up to them, and told them that he had realised that they were plainclothes cops. With that, they sped off, and didn't rear their heads again. This has been commented quite a bit on the forums. It has been put forth that this type of infiltration is not done without authorization from high up, from the government, which would indicate that there is no real desire to resolve the situation.

I rode ahead to film the whole caravan. First part.

Second part.

Another point where we stopped.

By then there were three groups, because the caravan had been cut in two parts. On one hand, it is a pity that people did not follow the organisers' indications. On the other, three groups create more traffic jams than just one.

The next day we found out that one asshole trying to do a wheelie in the middle of the caravan came down on another bike. As the injured party's father said on the forum, there are some people that have nothing but shit for brains.

This was the last total stop. By then, thanks to all our turning and backtracking and cloverleafing, I was completely and absolutely disoriented. I had no idea where I was, nor in which direction I was headed.

We went around this whole cloverleaf at least one time.

I've seen this bike several places. Last time was the mass event at Las Salinas, last year.

Towards the end of the night, the idea was to ride to Mersán, a giant place that (apparently) serves as a land port and cargo storage area, and as a good place for legal sprint races and drifting. The caravan was completely fractioned, and those leading our segment carried on past the turnoff, completely lost. I followed DíasDePlaya.

And eventually we got to Mersán. Not more than 150 bikes, all parked between two large warehouses, a mobile hot dog stand, a platform with lights and a loudspeaker system and that's about it. What a depressing place. I queued for a long time to get a hot dog, and meanwhile, some did sprints, burnouts or stunts. There was even a 400cc speedbike doing a burnout in a circle of burning fuel. I'm sorry, that's just too crass for my taste. I ate my hot dog and went home.



Post a Comment

<< Home