Friday, 12 August 2016

A "Highway" Isn't High And A "Freeway" Isn't Free, But A "Highway" Is Free And A "Freeway" Is High

Freddy Lim quoted in today's Taipei Times concerning the Ministry of Transport's reluctance to enact legislative amendments passed five years ago allowing "red plate" bikes onto freeways...
"In 2011 the Legislative Yuan passed amendments to the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act that clearly stated that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications could gradually allow heavy motorcycles with a cylinder displacement of more than 550cm3 onto highways — even naming freeways 6, 8 and 3 as the sites for priority trials,” he said. “However, the ministry has dragged its feet over the past five years, failing to take any action."
Even Freddy Lim (or his translator) doesn't seem to understand the difference between a "highway" and a "freeway" in Taiwan. As I have often said:
"A "highway" is the road that isn't high, but is free* whereas a "freeway is the road which is high, but isn't free."
On the subject itself, I think large displacement motorbikes should be allowed on the freeways. They can, without doubt, accelerate far quicker than most cars and reach higher top speeds, though this advantage is obviated by speed limits. However, even if the amendments were enacted to legalize the use of heavy motorbikes on the freeways, I suspect a lot of motorbike owners wouldn't want to use the freeways anyway. I know I probably wouldn't (unless it were very early on a weekday morning when there is little traffic); the freeways are a kind of "trapped space" from which withdrawal is only occasionally permitted via slip roads and so the possibility of accidents on Taiwan's freeways terrifies me far more than on the provincial highways.

I also think this reluctance to enact the 2011 legislative amendments might be yet more evidence of a general bias against motorbikes. I have often found that, when attempting to discuss the subject of traffic safety with Taiwanese, some of them will simply blame the high accident rate on the existence of "too many motorcycles". This has always been especially frustrating because I think the most important aspects of the traffic safety problem are psychological and cultural; yet the scooter or motorbike is used as a scapegoating means of evading the thrust of a question. I think what is sometimes happening is that car drivers don't want to face the reality that they too are essentially incompetent, and the consequent implication that the driving test is a farce and should be scrapped and everything which that in turn also implies. So instead, they just attribute blame for the high accident rate to the prevalence of scooters and motorbikes. Moreover, I have long believed that the motivation for public transport investments in Kaohsiung, Taichung and elsewhere is the desire to eventually call for a general prohibition on scooters.

*Of course, it isn't really "free" because it is paid for out of taxation.

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