Richie Post #1: Driving in Taiwan
This is a post written by my father while he was still in Taiwan in November. It was his first time in Taiwan, these were his impressions:
We went to a Taiwanese restaurant here in Taichung for dinner last night. Ian and I followed his girlfriend and her cousin on their scooter through town in some truly amazing traffic.
Ian drove with me on the back. Disney, or Six Flags should consider such a ride, as it was more thrilling than any roller-coaster ever built.
Scooters are the dominant vehicle here, and Saturday night there are thirty or forty waiting at every light. Since scooters are not "allowed", ha ha, to make left turns, if a rider wants to go left, they make a partial right turn, then a quick left at the front of the intersection and stop to wait for the light. Cars are supposed to wait further back, which they do most of the time.
What actually happens when a light turns green is, (after a brief period where the people; running the light, making left turns across two lanes of traffic, and those who have started the race early, sort out their differences), something like the start of a motorcycle race. A slow motion race, but a definite race none the less. In lieu of high speed the Taiwanese add obstructions to the "official" half lane to the right of the two normal lanes used by vehicle traffic. Bicycles, scooters pulling over-sized trailers, scooters driven slowly by old ladies with both legs hanging down, parked cars, portable signs, a surprising number of people driving against traffic before heading whatever direction they'd really like to go, and an occasional suicidal pedestrian can be counted on to liven up the competition. The track is gaily lit by bright signs of every color and store fronts, so scooter lighting is optional, and since working mufflers are also optional, the sound of the race is authentic.
Once the pack gets up to speed the riders jockey for position ready to squeeze between the various moving as well as stationary obstacles and the now overtaking cars and trucks. To assure the action never slows an assortment of vehicles backing into the roadway, making U turns, and maneuvers of unknown purpose are performed randomly.
It was amazing to me that we were able to travel several miles each way through this mayhem without observing an actual collision. By the time we got back I had begun to develop a begrudging admiration for these fearless riders, and today I'm ready to rent a scooter and join them, slowly with both legs hanging down.