By Marian Rosado.

Madrid has joined other European and Latin American cities in offering a transport system with motorcycles, conceived as a way of relieving traffic jams.

"One day when we were stuck in traffic the idea occurred to my partner who is a motorcyclist," Eric Goyenechea, a Cuban living in Madrid and one of the heads of the MotoTaxi Low Cost company, told Efe.

With that idea in mind, he and his Argentine partner Juan Pablo Lazaro traveled to such cities as London, Amsterdam and Paris, where these vehicles were already in use, to study their operations.

"We have motorcycle speed but with built-in comfort. Our motorcycles have a roof and a trunk for hand luggage," Goyenechea said of the new service that started up this week in the Spanish capital.

Among the impediments, he recalled that they had to go through considerable red tape to patent their business. "Since it's something new here, there are no regulations, so it took us more than a year to open the business, but now we have everything in order," he said.

In times of economic crisis, offering "low cost" transport is a big moto-taxi attraction. "We charge 1.50 euros ($1.95) to start and 0.70 euros per kilometer ($1.46 per mile)," while a normal taxi costs between 2.15 euros ($2.80) and 3.10 euros ($4.00) to start, according to the time of day or the day of the week.

"Executives, business owners an even some students in a hurry have already tried the service. They're people who have to get somewhere as quick as they can," he said.

Users can contact the company by telephone or just grab one of the moto-taxis found on the busiest streets of the capital.

"We have mototaxis where we know there will be customers that need us, though we're still waiting for the municipality to authorize official moto-taxi stands," Goyenechea said.

The company, which has eight moto-taxis and 17 workers, has only been in business for a few days, but its owners say they're very pleased with the "good reception."

Their joy is not shared by Madrid's cabbies, however, who fear they will lose clients and have taken steps against their new rival.

"We've presented a complaint to the municipality of Madrid because that company is downgrading the business," Mariano Sanchez, president of the Taxi Federation, told Efe.

He said that "they have added features like the taximeter and the luminous sign that says 'taxi' which is only regulated for us, so the municipality has to do something about it."

Nonetheless, Madrid Deputy Mayor Miguel Angel Villanueva said Thursday that national legislation "exempts vehicles of three wheels or less from needing authorization to be able to work. And we can't logically create a city statute contrary to the national one. There is no legal possibility to halt or regulate this activity," he said.

Eric Goyenechea preferred to sidestep the issue.

"We're not doing anything illegal, we have all the permits. There doesn't have to be a confrontation. They are taxis and we are moto-taxis," he said. EFE