Thursday, June 14, 2007

Driving in Taiwan

Yeah, it's different from the US too.

Before I ever got a scooter, the best piece of advice that I got was to ignore any Western notions of right-of-way that you have. Basically, you're responsible to not hit whatever is in front of you. The end.

So things like checking your blind spot and yielding really don't have any place here. When I was first starting out riding my bike, if there was like a car blocking my lane, I would stop and wait until all the traffic had passed and crane my neck to see and eventually I'd go. Then I realized that the people behind me expected me to swerve around the obstacle, and the poeple to the left of them would swerve around them, etc. And that's really how it goes.

Most large roads have a scooter lane that could fit 2 scooters but is really safe for one, but cars and stuff park in the scooter lane so you're always driving into the car lane. It works out OK though. You also have to go into the car lane a lot to pass other scooters. Smaller roads don't have lane markings so you just go, scooters keeping to the right, in general, kind of.

One of the weirdest things that still amaze me are what the driving manual called "Zebra Intersections"- this is where there's a 4-way intersection, which would definitely at least have stop signs in the US, but here it just has diagonal lines that mean "Watch out!" (they are white, on a black road, hence the zebra thing, I guess) and no one has to stop. You just kind of slow down and avoid the cross-traffic. They are never at a huge intersection but they can be very busy. It's hard to even describe. But it's cool- you don't have to stop and wait usually, you just keep moving. In the US, really, everyone would just come to an awkward stop and stare at each other if they came to an intersection like this.

The upside (or downside) is that you have to pay super-close attention to everything and be a very skilled driver. In the US I think everyone had the experience of driving along and not even noticing where you are. You could never do that here. You have to focus 100%. And the scooter test is one thing, but the car test is crazy- you have to back up through an s-curve that has sensors that fail you if you hit them. There is no playing games with cars.

People run red lights and stuff but not too badly. On busy roads if a light turns red as you get to it pretty much everyone stops. Sometimes when there is a red light but traffic is clear in both directions people will go through. It's hard for me not to do this but I restrain myself!

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