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Motorcycles, Scooters, Oaxaca, and Surviving

an article by Alvin Starkman of Casa Machaya
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Cautionary note: The third week of May, 2008, Hertz in Oaxaca changed its downtown location from a side-street, to the main drag, the pedestrian walkway known as Alcalá, about a block and a half up from the zócalo. The new digs are larger and storefront. However, in one of the windows are parked four or five 125 cc scooters for rent, at the very reasonable price of 250 pesos per day.

The Hertz management are good people whom I've known for years. However, travelers and residents should take extra precautions if contemplating renting a scooter. The temptation is now right in front of you. Bombing around downtown Oaxaca or on the nearby highways is very different from renting a motorbike in Cancun, The Dominican Republic, Puerto Escondido and other beach resorts. It's much more dangerous in my opinion, so be forewarned and make sure you exercise added caution if you're a novice or lack a lot of experience, yet still insist on renting.

In the space of one year, in motorcycle accidents one acquaintance has been killed, and another ended up confined permanently to a wheelchair--and these were experienced, Oaxacan cyclists.

In Oaxaca, rules of the road are different, and in any event are not enforced very often; at many intersections there are no traffic lights or stop or yield signs, so you just have to know; frequently traffic lights don't work (especially during the rainy season); it appears to me that most motorists are uninsured (insurance is optional in the state); and, impaired driving is a much greater problem here than in the US or Canada. While penal reform now exists in Oaxaca, its implementation is proceeding very slowly, and here in the city we are still subject to a Napoleonic / inquisitorial regime, meaning that if you get in an accident and someone is injured, even if you believe it's not your fault, you could end up behind bars, if only for a brief period of time. Please, be careful.

Alvin Starkman together with wife Arlene operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast. Alvin received his masters in social anthropology in 1978, and his law degree in 1984. Thereafter he was a litigator in Toronto until taking early retirement. He and his family were frequent visitors to Oaxaca between 1991 and when they became permanent residents in 2004. Alvin reviews restaurants, writes about life and cultural traditions in Oaxaca, tours couples and families to the craft villages, ruins, towns and their market days and other sights, and is a special consultant to documentary film production companies.

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