Mototaxis offer a simple form of transport and employment

Mototaxistas en Barranquilla. Photo credit: Carlos Felipe Pardo

In most cities in Colombia, it’s quite common to see mototaxis ferrying other riders for cash. This informal method of public transportation offers riders a simple, fast and economical way of getting from point A to B. More often than not the service is used by locals in the lower strati although from time to time you can glimpse foreigners as well who appreciate the simplicity.

As a form of employment, the casual style offers the young, old, inexperienced and unemployed an easily developed source of income. In slow economic times this has been especially important for many families who would otherwise be unable to feed their families.

Meanwhile, the government is looking for ways to eradicate mototaxis altogether and to find a solution for the thousands of people who are currently operating them. In fact, the municipal goverment imposed regulations in 2011 requiring motorcycle owners to license their vehicles and to pre-register passengers online. Owners need to carry the registration with them so that in case they are stopped, the police can easily ascertain whether they are authorized to carry their rider.

Obviously, pre-registering requires advance knowledge of future passengers, and therefore eliminates the ability of drivers to pick-up random fares. However, if you’ve ever traveled along the outskirts of the city or to any of the poorer sections, you know how easy it is to hail a motorcycle. More often than not, drivers pre-register their friends and hope they don’t get caught when carrying others. Those unlucky enough to be pulled over with an unauthorized rider face stiff fines up to $ 114,900 COP.

According to the Secretary of Mobility, the government is worried about public safety stemming from uncertified drivers who don’t have the necessary training and experience to perform commercial services. That said, there are no courses or programs visibly being offered for motorcycle owners who carry their families nor for owners who have pre-registered passengers, so it isn’t clear where the benefit stems in this specific case. The government is also citing road congestion, pollution, and interestingly, skin diseases from unapproved helmets and finally, they are also hoping to reduce criminality due to a wave of criminal acts perpetrated by riders of motorcycles. According to their fact sheet, there were 3200 such homicides in 2010.

There are also time restrictions for motorcycles carrying authorized passengers (from 5 am to 11 pm) and specifics identifying prohibitions in certain regions. To learn more about restrictions and expectations, you can visit the website below:

Previous articleThe 23rd Central American and Caribbean games have a new logo
Next articleBarranquilla - Sandwiched between Mountains and Sea
Carlos Guerra is a person who loves writing. His experience teaching Spanish to foreigners and his job as a Language and Culture Facilitator for the Peace Corps was his motivation to start writing about Barranquilla’s culture. He considers himself an ambassador of the Caribbean culture and Colombia. He loves teaching English and Spanish and enjoys learning from different cultures.


  1. I don’t think an outright banning of mototaxis is the answer. There should be better regulation, not preregistration online (however that might work), and enforcement of the traffic laws. Mototaxi drivers need better education in handling a motorcycle. All drivers of any kind of vehicle here in B’quilla need better training. The police need to actually enforce traffic laws, something they do not do, apparently, at all. The city should be writing much bigger fines. Honestly, a fine of 114,900 is not steep enough to convince anyone they should follow the rules and regulations. The fines need to be big enough to hurt, so the person will not take the chance of another such fine. There are many problems in regards to mototaxis, and many in regards to car taxis as well. No matter what is done, without enforcement, there is only chaos.

    • I agree with you Chip; police need to start enforcing all traffic violations. I’m surprised the city hasn’t jumped on it especially considering the potential boost to its coffers.