Saturday, January 14, 2017

New Rules on Horse-Drawn Carts Force the People of Santiago to Change Their Travel Patterns

New Rules on Horse-Drawn Carts Force the People of Santiago to Change
Their Travel Patterns / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

14ymedio, Yosmani Mayeta Labrada, Santiago de Cuba, 10 January 2017 —
The hooves ring on the pavement in the middle of the night. The sun
begins to illuminate Santiago de Cuba, where horse-drawn carts, trucks
and motorcycles offer urban transport in an underserved market. But the
measures introduced by the authorities in the middle of last year in
order to preserve the city center have forced changes in the mobility of
the people of Santiago.

The regulations, issued by the city's People's Power with the support of
the Historian's Office and police forces, range from parking bans to
price caps on animal drawn vehicles. But the measure that most disgusts
the citizens who do not live in the historic center has been the moving
of the stands where the horse carts park from the centrally located
Alemeda German Michaelsen, to the outskirts, next to the Santiago Train
and Bus Terminal, near the San Pedrito neighborhood.

For years, the routes from the previous collection point to La Barca de
Oro and the old Havana Terminal, carried about 2,000 passengers a day,
according to the calculations of several self-employed people who
frequent the place.

Since the beginning of 2016, and coinciding with the restoration process
of the Alameda and the streets surrounding the new malecon, the City
Conservation Office has made every effort to restrict carts in the most
central areas. "It had to be done to preserve the place because of its
high urban and environmental value," says one of the Office's
specialists, who prefers anonymity. "The horses defecated in the middle
of the road and their owners did not outfit them with waste collectors,"
complains the professional.

The neighbors of the area are among the beneficiaries and applaud the
measure. Maria Antonia Reyes, who previously had to clean in front of
her house "when horses urinated" is now satisfied to be able to breathe
"cleaner air."

The pedicabs have been favored by the new regulations. "There is no
shortage of customers, we have one after another and at the end of the
day I arrive home with more money," says Manolo, one of the drivers of
these bicycle's designed for public transport.

But the people of Santiago, who had favored horse-drawn carts as an
alternative to the poor bus service, have fewer opportunities for
internal mobility.

"The Alameda was a point from where it was easy to go anywhere,"
14ymedio is told by Norge Gonzalez, a cart driver with more than 15
years of experience. "In less than ten minutes the cart was full, but
now people prefer to take something else because of the distance to the
coach stand," he says.

Another of the provisions that have fired up the cart drivers is the
imposition of capped prices, which were set at two Cuban pesos (about 8
cents US), three less than what was charged previously. Offenders can be
punished with high fines or even confiscation of their vehicles.

Given this situation, some of the coachmen have proposed to stop work
for a couple of days, as a way to pressure the authorities and to get
the measures repealed. The lack of organization of the union and the
fear of a massive withdrawal of licenses, however, restrains any
initiative of protest.

Self-employment regulations include a license for those carrying
"freight or passengers with their own or leased means using a horse
drawn cart," an occupation of particular importance for mobility in
rural areas, where up to 80% of passengers travel in this type of vehicle.

The discontent in the sector over the latest measures taken in many
municipalities has been noted throughout the island since last year. In
November, the coachmen in the municipality of Mayarí in Holguín, shut
down their work in protest against the imposition of price caps on the
part of the authorities, who from 1 October onwards forced them to cut
their fares in half.

In July, horse-drawn cart drivers in Placetas, Villa Clara, went on a
strike after being warned by local government officials that their
routes would be moved to another area, outside the downtown areas of the

Source: New Rules on Horse-Drawn Carts Force the People of Santiago to
Change Their Travel Patterns / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada –
Translating Cuba -

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