Five Things I Observed About Traffic in Taipei...
Wow, I can't believe that COMPUTEX is here again! In less than ten days, Michael Kwan, Ed Lau and myself will be in Taipei, Taiwan for the second biggest Computer Show in the world. The biggest is CeBit in Hannover, Germany. This will be my third time going, and I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing all the cool toys and of course, reporting to you live about the whole booth babe situation. We'll also be enjoying tons of free stuff and lots of parties! Since I've sworn off oversized free T-shirts, expect a few giveaways when I get back.
All the big websites that matter will be there like Tom's Hardware and Anandtech including many huge overseas websites like HardwareZone etc. It will be great to run into old friends from other overeseas publications. Last year, I was so surprised when I ran into people that were just as excited to see someone from Futurelooks as I was to run into them. The last couple years, I stopped in Hong Kong, but this year, the weather here in Vancouver is starting off too nice to miss out on. I was going to head to Japan this year, but I'll let Ed Lau scout it out this year before I head over next year. He's heading over for a couple months after the show so I expect to hear about "Beautiful Girls direct to his Hotel".
One of the things that Taipei is known for is the huge scooter population and the heavy traffic in the city core during rush hours...or hours...as the city is pretty much open 24/7. While in Taiwan for COMPUTEX over the last couple of years, I had a really good chance to observe the driving habits of the locals. I mean, it explains a few things when you head to Richmond and almost die. Here's what I observed that may keep you from dying if you decide to go there and tempt fate by walking across the street...
1. Red Lights - When the red light turns...umm...red...which usually means stop around here, it doesn't mean that in Taiwan. It appears that the light is only a suggestion. I've observed at least as many cars as possible squeezing through before the other cars from the green light side reach the intersection. Even then, a few more cars can make it through with no problems by swerving wildly. It also appears that the custom is to "Honk Twice" and run it anyway.
2. Painted Lines On the Road - Suggestions as well! Just because there is a painted line, doesn't mean you have to stay in it. In Taiwan, you make your own lanes. A road is divisible by as many cars as you can fit on the road regardless of how many lanes are officially painted. They might as well not bother with lines and just have blank road. Would save a lot on road maintenance.
3. Pedestrians - Cars can hurt you. You can't hurt them. If you're crossing the street and not watching for cars, pretending that you have the right away and crap like in North America, you'll end up as a hood ornament faster than you know it. I even saw a public service announcement that was urging drivers NOT to run over pedestrians. Again, merely a suggestion. Suing? Absolutely! You're paying for the repairs to the car!
4. Scooters - Although cars trump scooters, only because they are bigger, they are higher up than pedestrians. Scooters ride on sidewalks, in between cars, through crosswalks. Basically, anywhere a person can go, a scooter is coming so get out of the way. Not running you over is merely a suggestion so beware!
5. Personal Driving Space - Yeah right. If there is a hole, you can bet that a car or a scooter will plug it. Heck, even if the car doesn't really have the space to fit, it will try. The scooters won't give up without a fight either. Like I said earlier about painted lines, why even bother?
Okay, this is unofficially six, but I've seen cars turning right. Yes, it is a pretty common thing, even in North America, however, this is a little different. How about turning left from the far right lane through oncoming traffic? No, it wasn't a one off. I saw this happen more than once. So if you're crossing the street, you better not be in the way. That car is gonna finish that turn and you're not going to stop it.
Some of the North American reps that I met at the show had a great suggestion if any of the above bothers you. If you're in a cab, just throw on your iPod or MP3 player, and close your eyes until you get to your destination...or stay off the street...period. Now you know, and knowing will keep you alive in Taipei. I will definitely be following some of my own advice.