A Motorcyclist’s Worst Nightmare – Brazil’s Deadly Kite lines.

Kids flying a kite on the road near powerlines

Kids flying a kite on the road near power lines (Photo: http://noticias.r7.com)

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 nightmare for 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.

Motorcyclist's protection: anti-cerol antenna, designed to catch and cut kite lines

Motorcyclist’s protection: anti-cerol antenna, designed to catch and cut kite lines

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.

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)

“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.

Motorcyclist wounded by kite line.

Motorcyclist wounded by kite line. This one was lucky to have survived. (photo: http://www.portalguaratiba.com.br/)

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.

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.

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.

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This entry was posted in Motorcycle road trips, Other stuff, Rio de Janeiro by Raf Kiss. Bookmark the permalink.

About Raf Kiss

Belgian Expat in Brazil since January 2009. Motorcycle and outdoors enthusiast, tour guide, adventure seeker, musician and newbie blogger... Dropped out of school at age 17, had jobs in a saw mill, a car body shop and a few restaurant kitchens, meanwhile studying at night for an accountancy degree, which landed me a job in the Venture Capital industry, administrating venture capital funds... Moved to Brazil to start a new life and explore the biggest country in South America. I love riding bikes, both motor- and mountain bike, swimming, motocross, hiking, trekking, Kayaking, rappel and rock climbing... I also play guitar and harmonica and enjoy reading a book once in a while. I'm also 95% Vegan, don't smoke and not a fan of alcohol, which makes me a lousy Brazilian, but will keep me healthy for a few more years. I hope that through reading my posts, people will be inspired to visit Brazil and discover this magnificent country.

6 thoughts on “A Motorcyclist’s Worst Nightmare – Brazil’s Deadly Kite lines.

  1. Hey Raf ,
    thank you indeed for the profound information about kitelines in Brazil.
    I am about planning a fundraising motorcycleproject for the children in this world.

    Targeting to collect 50.000 € of donations for professional aid organistions , the http://www.Ride-of-Smiles.de will take me 50.000 miles “around the world” – starting 1st of April 2015 in New York it will also take into Brasil- maybe you have saved me from a bit of trouble beforehead .

    Thank you so much for your brilliant Blogwork.

    Would be great to meet you in Brasil 2015 – should get there about June -July , depending on the trip before !

    Keep the rubberside down and your head not higher than necessary to avoid the lines.

    BABA Henning from Germany

    • Hi there,
      Wow, great project you are planning there… hats off.
      Yes, definitely let me know when you get to Rio (assuming that you are planning to do a stopover here). June – July is a great time to be here. It will be “winter” but the weather is still like a good European summer.
      The more you go south, it gets colder though.
      Cheers
      Raf

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  4. Hi Leah, I can assure you it is by no means a joke. In some areas near residential areas you really need that stupid antenna to keep you from losing your head. I almost had my throat cut by a barbed wire someone strung over a deserted dirt road and that I didn’t notice in time. Luckily my speed at the moment of impact was relatively low or I would probably not be typing this right now :-/

  5. I hadn’t thought about this in terms of kite flying, but my nephew is a border patrol in Arizona. He patrols the US/Mexico border, sometimes on a ATV. They have something similar on the front due to drug traffickers stringing wire along roads. The purpose is to injure or kill border patrol. Very interesting, Raf.

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