If you’ve ever found yourself out and about screaming indecipherable obscenities at passing vehicles or whimpering in a side street after your daily near death experience, then relax. Take a deep breath. While being a motorist in Taiwan can sometimes be a baffling, frustrating, terrifying and illogical experience, there are some tips to make life a little easier. If you know how the system works you can beat it! Or, at least fit in with the locals. My credentials (I can’t drive a car, I don’t have a license in my own country, I have terrible eyesight) puts me in an excellent position from which to dispense some handy tips and tricks for navigating the streets. So without further ado I give you
A guide for ‘driving’ in Taiwan
-If you need to pull over and park the best way to do it is slowly. Not a leisurely Sunday drive slowly, no! Instead adopt the pace of someone who has passed out and no longer has the ability to depress the accelerator. Inch toward your right. This ambling roll to the curb will indicate to other drivers that you are going to stop, soon. Never mind using those flashing lights to add an extra warning. Don’t worry about any bicycles, or scooters that will possibly be caught within this lingering lurch, they should have read the warning signs earlier.
-What if when you pull over to park you find, oh no!, to your dismay there is no space available for you? Not to worry, double lanes are for double parking. Think of it not so much as place for cars and scooters to drive but as your own personal pull over party. Hazard lights are your friend. (Indicators are not.)
-Surprises are always fun, especially road surprises. When pulling out onto the road, be unexpected. Don’t use your indicator; don’t wait for a gap, heck! Don’t even look. Just swerve out into the middle of the road with a shout of “SUPRISE! You’re about to have an accident.” Those toots you hear are just other motorists’ way of joining in the party.
-A green light means go, an orange light means go faster even if you’re 20m away, and a red light means Go too! It’s like racing for an elevator before the doors close. Except if you miss the gap you’ll be caught between a truck and hard place. Whee!
Preferred accessories: Dark, vision obscuring sunglasses, a cell phone to text or chat on and cigarettes.
Use sporadically: Indicator and rearview mirror
-The very best way to turn into oncoming traffic is fearlessly! No need to look the other way. Have 100% confidence in those hurtling towards you. They will see you, slow down and avoid you and give you a happy toot. “Thank you for reminding me to be vigilant, good sir!” they shout. “I shall return the favour later.”
-Obey a strict scooter helmet hierarchy. Driver first, adult passengers next, and then, perhaps, children. However if you cannot find something to encase the brain of your precious child, don’t worry. That mask they are wearing not only prevents sickness but serious injury also.
-Don’t think just because they’re a new-born they too cannot enjoy the joys of scooter travel! Babies love danger. Footrests: a handy place for your belongings or that giant piece of furniture you need to transport. But they have other uses also. Just plunk a chair down and they double as bub’s mobile play pen. Carbon monoxide free of charge!
-It is essential to learn how to wear a helmet correctly. First, purchase one that has no visor, but instead resembles a plastic skullcap. Be sure to choose one that is several sized too big for extra comfort. Then, drop it a few hundred times to build its strength. When wearing said helmet, make sure as little of your head is covered as possible. Let your skull feel that cleansing breeze! Straps are available but not necessary.
-Preferred footwear: Blue flip-flops or high-heeled shoes.
Preferred clothing: Long pants, backwards jacket, gloves, mask, sunglasses. All. Year. Round. You basically want people to think you are a vampire forced to exist during daylight hours.
Necessary: Accelerator and brake
Good for arbitrary use: Mirrors and indicators.
- When crossing the road, its best to play hard to get. Do not make eye contact with the cars coming your way, in fact, don’t even look at them! Adopt an unhurried pace of casual indifference. The best time to window shop, text, cloud gaze or stop to think is in the middle of the road.
-If you do decide you want to wait for a gap in the traffic the best position is half way out onto the road, where you won’t be in the way of ANYBODY. On humid days nothing beats the breeze of a bus inches from your vital organs.
-Walking with friends is fun! Footpaths are strewn with far too many hazards, like parked motorcycles, steps, shop fronts, and dust. Best to walk on the road where things are far more calm. Avoid walking single file at all costs. Link arms, and form an unwavering barrier into the street. Never look back is a great motto in life AND for walking down the street.
-Preferred accessory: A giant umbrella that cuts off your peripheral vision and oncoming motorists.
Necessary: Taking your time
Unnecessary: Looking left or right.
And remember, whether you’re behind the wheel of a blue truck, touting customers about in your yellow taxi cab death trap, pedaling your way to work, spewing exhaust from your ancient scooter or going on foot, if someone almost hits there are three reactions you can have. 1. Look utterly confused, as if you had suddenly woken from a dream and realized that there are, in fact, other people sharing the road with you. 2. Ignore them completely. 3. Get angry. Does this person not realize that YOU and only you own the road? It’s their job to remain vigilant at all times, not yours.
Follow this advice and you’ll find yourself fitting in with the locals in no time.