"Following a preliminary review of footage taken from a bus’ video recorder, Chang Yu-hao (張育豪), head of the Taipei Police Department’s Traffic Division, said that Bridgeman was crossing Renai Road when he was struck by an oncoming bus, apparently because he was minding traffic to his left, but did not see the bus, which was coming down a bus lane to his right."This is from a story in today's Taipei Times about a U.S. academic killed while attempting to drive through Taipei City. Note that he was killed by a bus, and also that the police believe he was confused by inadequate road signage. I can believe that; road signs are not Taiwan's strong point and are often (though not always) misleading, downright contradictory or sometimes just useless either through being placed in redundant locations or absent at crucial road forks. Despite having lived in Taiwan for over a decade, I am not familiar with the streets of Taipei city and I strongly suspect they are more dangerous than anywhere else in Taiwan simply due to the complexity of the road network demanded by the size of the city and its' incessant crowding.
The tragic and ironic nature of professor Bridgeman's death was highlighted by the reporter Sean Lin in his final line of the piece:
"There are about 250,000 scooter accidents every year in Taiwan and the number is increasing. Taiwanese drivers just don't have the culture of honestly following the traffic rules. What the worse is the police often don't strictly enforce the laws."
"...the scooter culture in Taiwan is uncivilized and not befitting a country that likes to think of itself as developed. The government should push to phase them out completely and earn revenue by heavily fining people who continue to use them after the ban is in effect. Scooters promote a hoodlum-like culture on Taiwan's roads."
"Scooter drivers are reckless because they can always escape easily. Sometimes they intentionally cause accidents to make money from the other party. Scooters should not be allowed on busy and major roadways and expressways."Recall that this story was about a U.S. academic killed by a bus after apparently being confused by inadequate road signs. The fact that this man was accidentally killed by a bus driver rather than a scooter or motorbike driver simply hasn't registered with these people.
I have long thought that a defence of scooters and motorbikes in Taiwan is long overdue. My guess is that the anti-scooter bias is probably more concentrated among foreign residents in Taipei than elsewhere in Taiwan, but it is difficult to say. Yet when a man is killed by a bus, and people blame scooters, there is clearly some sort of insanity at work. Let's address those three comments above in order...
First, the notion that scooter accidents are caused by violation of the traffic rules or their lack of enforcement is only partially true, but in any case applies also to other kinds of vehicles such as cars, taxis, light and heavy trucks and buses. Irrespective of vehicle type, accidents are generally caused by human error which sometimes, though not always, also involves violation of traffic regulations.
Second, the insistence on government phasing out scooters and fining people who continue to use them is naked tyranny and aggression against the poor. It should not be countenanced by anyone with a modicum of respect either for property rights or the broader condition of freedom. Scooters and motorbikes provide people on modest and lower incomes with a vast increase in personal freedom at the cost of perhaps two months' wages. They obviate the need for expensive, limited and disruptive public transport and are probably a key component of Taiwan's labour productivity. The claim about "hoodlum culture" is largely limited to teenage gangs, but that is a social problem not caused by the existence of scooters, and banning scooters is not going to eradicate teenage gangs.
Third, scooter drivers are not all the same. It is a gross generalization to state that scooter drivers intentionally cause accidents in order to fraudulently make money; the idea that scooters should be banned from "busy and major" roads is poorly defined as that would seem to include most roads in Taiwan's cities, and the notion that they should be banned from "expressways" is stupid because scooters are already banned from expressways.
I could go on, but I won't; suffice it to say that Taiwan's traffic problems, whilst very serious, are not as simplistically stupid as there being "too many scooters".