Monday, June 09, 2008

scooters

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!

6 comments:

  1. Cahleen: I was planning to buy one of those small helmets, because of the heat factor. You don't think they're safe enough?

    I still think you are brave for driving a scooter in Taipei. I barely go around my little town here in the south.

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  2. I have always wanted a scooter and my dad said no to dangerous then my husband said no to dangerous. Nice to know about the helmet incase I ever am able to get one.

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  3. It is nice to live somewhere where sustainable transit is possible. I always wish I did, but then I wonder if I could stand the crush of people all the time as well. I have been to Taipei and seen all those scooters darting around, with the whole family perched on them!

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  4. Sandy,

    I honestly think that those small helmets aren't very safe, mostly because they tend not to fit one's head very snugly. I think it might fly off if you were in an accident! However, I've seen where you live and there aren't very many people on the road. Also, I think you only drive down the street to your school, right? Maybe in your case I would just go for it. definitely not in Taipei! I still think it's strange that a lot of people down where you live don't even wear helmets. =)

    Alisun,

    I think it would be cool if everyone switched to scooters! As of right now though, there's so many fast moving cars on the road in the U.S. It's not really a safe place for scooter drivers right now! This is especially true if you have kids or need to drive on the freeway on a regular basis.

    Nancy,

    Yes, sometimes a crush of people around you can be overwhelming. Sometimes just the smell of being around so many people on a bus or the MRT gets to me!

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  5. Taipei has an excellent public transportation system, but the same can't really be said for the rest of Taiwan. Without your own vehicle, it would take a long time to get around Taichung, for example. In the nearby city of Fongyuan (where I live), only students and the elderly use the buses. Everyone else drives cars or rides scooters because there are no other options.

    Scooters are a major reason why Taiwan's air quality is so poor. I use one myself to get around, and try to keep it in good working order, but I still feel guilty about my contribution to the poor state of the local environment :(

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  6. Kaminoge,

    You're right, it would be pretty hard to live without your own transportation anywhere outside of Taipei. That's why I feel especially guilty about driving a scooter -- I know I don't really need to. I also keep mine in good condition though. I get so annoyed when I'm stuck behind those scooters with tons of smoke pouring out of them!

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