Taiwan 2009 – Scooters Everywhere

Family Scooters I got a 50cc scooter last year, a cheap Chinese-built Keeway Venus. It’s a small retro-styled scooter, similar stylistically to (i.e. ripped-off from) an old model Yamaha Vino Classic 50. I figured that it would be a good “starter scooter” that I could basically not worry about screwing up, but what I didn’t anticipate was being chicken about riding it. I don’t have any motorcycle experience, and it’s been years since I’ve ridden a bike. On top of that, my experienced motorcyclists told me of the perils of gravel, leaves, ruts, blind motorists, slick roads in the first minutes of rain, getting hit by parts flying off of cars, pebbles kicked up by tires, legs snapped like twigs, hamburger, jaw destruction, decapitation, jellification…you get the idea. I got totally freaked out and limited my activity to the 2.5 mile Starbucks run from my house, when the weather was absolutely perfect and traffic was guaranteed to be light.

Scooters in Traffic On this visit to Taiwan, I was rather impressed to see just how many scooters there were on the road. Traffic in Taiwan is much different than the U.S. because the expectation of drivers is that they are going to get cut off, so everyone is resigned to it. Everyone is highly aware of what’s going on, and so long as people remain predictable in their motions and even in their speed, traffic actually flows pretty well. What was particularly interesting was the variety of people riding scooters.

Scooters Lined Up Old women, young women, students, big guys, little guys, people in suits, delivery people for the propone company, entire families…everyone just puttered along. While most people wore helmets, few of them wore protective foot gear. I saw plenty of people wearing flip-flops or open-toed shoes. That is farther than I’d go back home, but what struck me was just how ordinary riding a scooter was here. The level of experience was high, but not exceptional. I’m thinking now I don’t really have any excuse NOT to ride my scooter. I have to be vigilant, of course, and I’m still probably going to buy that armored riding jacket, full-face helmet and good shoes, but I’m feeling like I really should get over my fear and start puttering around. The New England spring and summer is all too short.

6 Comments

  1. Chris Haddad 6 years ago

    The Top Gear crew came to a similar observation at the close of the last series where they spent 5 days going from Saigon to Hanoi in Vietnam.

    Bikes and scooters are cheaper to own and maintain, and in developing countries, they’re easier to use to get around when compared to cars.

    Granted, there’s a world of difference between Taiwan and Vietnam, but there’s still some similarities.

    You come across anyone using a scooter to make commercial deliveries?

  2. Abhishek Mehta 6 years ago

    Hey buddy, I guess u shud come to visit india once..
    you will find much more scooters, bikes buzzing all over place..
    and a 50cc scooter may not need too many protective gears:)
    Jsut overcome your fear and go ahead..
    bcoz “DAR KE AAGE JEET HAI” ( There is victory after fear) ATB

  3. Steve Ames 6 years ago

    Hi David,

    Before you use your scooter much more, will you check out the traffic fatality stats for Taiwan, or Thailand, or … ? I’m worried about you! I mean, there’s a reason (I think) that it costs a zillion bucks to release a car in the US… it’s all about irritating safety regs, like reinforced doors, collapsing steering columns, irritants like Consumer Reports, and the NTSB…

    I’ve been enjoying your posts. Thanks!

    Best,

    Steve

  4. Bo Jordan 6 years ago

    Get out on that scooter!  But I definitely encourage you to invest in the armored jacket.  Look for a spring jacket that’s well-ventilated.

    I won’t even ride my bicycles without a helmet these days… trails or road.  Trust me: Concussions (or worse) really, REALLY suck!

  5. Dave Seah 6 years ago

    I looked up traffic fatalities in Taiwan, and came across this fellow’s blog post on driving in Taichung, which is the same city Dad lives in. It gives a good overview of the driving conditions in Taiwan. The first couple days I was here I was freaked out as a passenger, but then I saw that most people on the street just expected it, so the safest thing to do is to flow with expectations and take the opportunities that people would expect you to take. If you hesitate or introduce something unexpected into the local traffic pattern, then problems ensue. Driving in Boston is like that, except there is MUCH MORE honking and swearing :-)

  6. Maurits Polak 6 years ago

    Don’t worry to much about driving a scooter. The lack of protection however is an issue. I drive to work 4 days a week. It’s a 13 mile drive one way. I always, always wear protective gloves and 99% of the time I also wear my motorbike jacket with hard padding in it. And a helmet is required over here in Europe on just about everything (except bikes) so I’m also wearing that. Seeing these 16 year olds driving at ridicilous speeds of up to 60 miles/hr in a t-shirt and no gloves… it freaks me out. They do wear their helmet though! Oh, and 30 miles/hr is allowed on a 50cc bike so they will be in trouble with both the police and insurance company if they get into an accident.

    Just take it easy the first couple of hundred miles and you’ll get the hang of it.

A message from Dave:

I really believe we all benefit when we share our own perspectives on common experiences. It would be great if you added your own anecdotes and comments, even if you don't necessarily agree with the premise of the post; that's just good conversation in my book. The house rules are "treat each other with kindness and respect" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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