Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Taiwanese traffic

It's a 40 minute walk from my grandma's house to the noodle place described in the previous post. It wasn't such a long journey but I was getting a bit of a culture shock from my hometown!

First of all, the side walk. In Toronto, the walking experience is pretty much the same. There's a side walk and you just walk on it. The side walk is flat. Walking on it is quite easy. Not so in Taiwan. Side walks are not that flat, and sometimes there are scooters parked on it so you have to walk under the building but since those are private properties, the owners plan however they want. We had to step up or down many times sometimes. Other times there are uncovered manholes on the sidewalk. If we didn't pay attention we'd step into one. That was just on a particular street under construction though. But still, it was a law suit waiting to happen. I haven't seen this in Canada yet!

Second of all, the shop signs. They are everywhere. Perhaps because the nature of Chinese characters allow them to be written top-to-bottom, there are signs sticking out of every building, making the streets look a bit cluttered. Although in a way, they do add to the personality of those streets.

Third, and most interesting of all, is the traffic. In Taiwan there are scooters. I was told that Taiwan has the highest density of scooters in the world. Almost everyone in Taiwan has a scooter. The reason for their popularity is the lack of parking spots in Taiwan. They are also quite cheap (a new, mid range scooter costs about CAD $1500) I would guess that making the law for scooters is quite hard. In Taiwan there are lanes for cars and one lane for scooters/bicycles. Unlike Canada, where a motorcycle is treated like a car, all the scooters share a lane, so passing other scooters isn't as orderly. Also, think about this: naturally, cars are faster and must be in the inner lanes so the outer lane is for the scooters. However, what if the cars want to turn right and the scooters are going forward? It's an art for a driver to maneuver around scooters in many situations like these. Scooters complicate the traffic conditions quite a bit. On top of that, there is the problem with people not obeying the traffic law. Scooters could ride in reverse directions, or turning left cutting into car lanes, or there could be businesses on the scooter lane and scooters have to go into the car lane, etc... It makes the traffic condition very interesting to watch. Taiwanese people don't like waiting. They don't yield to pedestrians. They just find ways around them when they're crossing the streets. When I was walking there it was scary because scooters and cars were coming at all directions and it felt like they were going to hit you. However, I've realized that to survive the traffic there as a pedestrian you just have to watch out for unsafe drivers, then for all other drivers, just keep in mind where you're going, going at a predictable direction and speed, walk forth slowly but steadily, then all other vehicles will go around you. It's worked quite well for me. Still, the image of all vehicles coming at all directions is quite a sight!

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