During the dry winter months in Brazil, thousands of kids take to the streets to fly a kite. This seemingly innocent game has proven a deadly nightmarefor many motorcyclists.
A few years ago, I read a book called “The Kite Runner”, by Khaled Hosseini, a great novel about a boy in Kabul, Afghanistan where “Kite fighting” is a very popular sport. the objective of the game is to cut the line of the opponent’s kite. The guy who cuts the other guy’s line and is able to pick up the falling kite becomes the new owner of this kite.
Kids flying kites and odd looking motorcycles.
My first winter in Brazil (2009), I couldn’t look past the droves of kids and even adults, flying kites (here they are called “Pipa”) very close to the roads and the traffic. When my wife told me that they were trying to cut the other kid’s line and then run after the falling kite, I remembered the book.
In fact, it is a serious problem. When kids fly kites near big roads, the lines sometimes end up hanging over the road, posing a deadly risk for passing motorcyclists. (To see some pictures of what the kite line can do, click here. WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC PHOTOS)Another thing I had noticed during my first months in Brazil, was that many motorcycles had a strange-looking antenna on the handlebars. When someone explained to me that this was a protection against kite lines, it all started to make sense. This was no joke.
“Preparing” the lines with a mixture of glue and grinded glass called Cerol, was forbidden years ago, but a new, even more dangerous product became available: the “linha Chilena“.
The linha Chilena is a ready-to-use kite line, especially designed to cut, containing quartz powder and aluminum oxide. The cutting power of this line is five times greater than the traditional cerol, cutting through human flesh like a hot knife through butter.
The problem behind the seemingly innocent game
The statistics don’t lie: Every year there are about 500 accidents with motorcyclists and stray kite lines, 125 of which are fatal.
In an attempt to tackle the problem, authorities have issued a new law last month (may 2012), prohibiting the sale of the linha Chilena. Anyone caught selling it, will face a serious fine and up to 4 years of prison.Aside from the danger for motorcyclists, there are also cases of accidents with youngsters being fatally cut when the line gets tangled around their neck. Other accidents occur when kite lines get stuck in power lines and kids get electrocuted trying to retrieve their toy. Kites also cause power outings when caught in power lines. The small glass particles that are released during the use of this kite line can also cause serious lung problems.
Only in the city of Rio de Janeiro there are over 40.000 kite flying enthusiasts, and as it will be a huge task to keep the linha Chilena off of the streets, I don’t think I’ll remove the ugly antenna from my bike just as yet.