Posted by: humilityjoy | June 5, 2012

Bend-Skin or Moto-taxi: a way to avoid Traffic?/ Bend-skin ou Moto-taxi: un Moyen d’eviter les embouteillages?

Bend Skin in Douala, near the justice palace

Bend-Skin in Douala, near the justice palace

Commonly called Bend-Skin (pronounce ‘bend-sikin‘) in Cameroon, motorcycle taxis occupy a special place in many African countries, as one of the key forms of public transportation.  Yes… you heard me right!  In the big traffic jams of Douala, in the potholes of African capitals, or in the remotest villages, the motorcycle taxis are the quickest, and most economical way to get to one’s destination.  In Cameroon, they are dearly called bend-skin because people actually have to ‘bend their skin’ as they go through the potholes, holding tightly their belongings and their hearts even tighter.  They are ‘technically’ supposed to carry only one passenger, but often can be seen carrying 2 or even more.  They became prominent in the streets of Douala in the late 1990s after the economic crisis following the CFA franc devaluation, and particularly after the government left the streets of Douala degrade to the point where driving through giant potholes in a car became almost dangerous and extremely costly for car owners.  Moreover, many college graduates who could not find jobs started taking to moto-taxis as a mean to make ends meet.  The moto-taxis form queues outside office buildings, public markets, and near the corners of residential streets.  Bend-skin are affordable and readily available: one can hardly wait too long for one to come around.  They do not wear helmets, and tend to be aggressive drivers, leading to a rise in road-accidents in recent years. Today they have their own unions, and bike wash.  Enjoy watching a moto-taxi or bend-skin wash in Cameroon. (A note: if they are called bend-skin in Cameroon, how are moto-taxis called in your country?)


Bend Skin


Communément appelés Bend-Skin (prononcer ‘Bend-sikin‘) au Cameroun, les moto-taxis occupent une place spéciale dans un grand nombre de pays africains, car ils sont un moyen de transport en public très répandu. Oui… vous m’avez bien entendu! Dans les grands embouteillages de Douala, dans les nids de poules des capitales africaines, ou même dans les villages les plus reculés, les moto-taxis sont le moyen le plus rapide et économique d’arriver à bon port.  Au Cameroun, ils sont appelés bend-skin, car l’on doit effectivement se ‘plier la peauet solidement tenir ses affaires, pour éviter de se retrouver dans des nids de poules sur la route.  Ils sont supposés transporter un seul client, mais on peut souvent les voir transportant 2 ou même plus.  La présence des moto-taxis sur les routes de Douala s’est developpée dans les années 1990 après la crise économique qui a suivi la dévaluation du FCFA; et particulièrement après que le gouvernement ait delaissé les rues de Douala qui se sont delabrées au point de former des trous béants sur la chaussée trop dangereux et extrêmement coûteux (le prix des reparations) pour les propriétaires de voitures.  De plus, beaucoup de jeunes licenciés, diplômés de l’enseignement supérieur, sans boulot s’y sont mis pour afin de joindre les deux bouts.  Les moto-taxis s’alignent à l’extérieur de bâtiments administratifs, marchés publiques, et au coin des rues résidentielles, pour attendre les clients.  Le prix du moto-taxi est bon prix et à la portée de tout le monde.  Par dessus tout, ils sont ‘versés’ partout: nul besoin d’attendre trop longtemps pour voir un arriver.  Ils ne mettent pas de casques, et ont tendance à être des conducteurs très aggressifs; ce qui conduit a une augmentation d’accidents routiers ces dernières années.  De nos jours, les bend-skin ont leurs propres syndicats de travailleurs, et leurs propres laveries. Regardez cette vidéo d’une laverie de Bend-skin au Cameroun. (Une note: s’ils sont appelés Bend-skin au Cameroun, comment les moto-taxis sont-ils appelés chez vous?)

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  1. Great informative post. Motorcycles are more then Transportation to some of us but to many they are vital tools that assist individuals in making things happen in their lives. Apparently cycles also give individual incomes to support themselves. I love motorcycles even more after your post. Thanks

  2. In my country, Nigeria it is called okada, after the defunct airline company Okada Air.

  3. […] day.  Cotonou is also well-known for its Zemidjans (or moto-taxis, similar to the Cameroonian bend-skins), and its pollution arising from its use of bad petrol (essence frelatée) also known as kpayo, […]

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