I have to admit, I feel a slight sense of deranged pleasure every time I talk to a family member about gas prices in California. The conversation goes something like this:
relative/friend: "Gas prices are out of control! It's up to ___ a gallon now!"
me: "I pay roughly 3 U.S. dollars a week to fill up the tank in my scooter."
I don't know why I get a kick out of this. Maybe it affirms my choice to live overseas. In any case, transportation in Taiwan is very convenient. It's especially convenient in Taipei, where we have world class transportation. However, even with world class public transportation, someone like me who was born and raised in the driving culture of Los Angeles begins to miss the freedom of driving according to your own schedule. This is why many people, after living in Taiwan at least a year, opt to start driving a scooter.
Scooters are a bit dangerous, but after driving one for over a year I've come to believe that most fatal scooter accidents are caused by extremely dangerous, stupid driving. If you drive a scooter, you're pretty much guaranteed to get into at least one accident, but it most likely won't be fatal. Traffic can't move very fast here because there's just too many cars!
Scooter accidents can be avoided primarily by not driving like an idiot. By this I mean DO NOT speed in and out of lanes and between cars when traffic is moving quickly. DO NOT drive on the right side of a bus or taxi for a prolonged amount of time, as they pull to the right quickly when they see potential passengers. AVOID little blue trucks. If it's raining heavily, take public transportation. Last but not least, splurge a little on your helmet. Spend AT LEAST 800-1,000 NT, and don't wear those little tiny helmets in the summer ... no matter how hot it is!
The thing that bugs me the most about scooter driving in Taiwan is the way that people pile on their children, completely helmetless of course. Take a look at this picture:
This picture is actually quite mild. It's not uncommon to see two or three children on a scooter, or even an infant being held by his/her mother -- all without helmets! People don't see the point in buying their children helmets that they will just grow out of. Often when a child does where a helmet, it's way too big for him/her. It's actually quite difficult to find smaller sized helmets. I think the heads of Taiwanese people must be shaped differently than Westerners, because even I have a hard time finding a helmet that fits my head snugly.
Anyway, the reason for this post, besides to help anyone thinking of driving a scooter in Taiwan, is to show you a picture of my super cute new scooter. Look, it's purple!