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.
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.
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.