|Photo: Focus Taiwan|
I have lived in Taiwan for 8 years and counting, and in that time I have seen copious amounts of traffic accidents, either the accident itself or the aftermath with scooters, cars and people smashed and broken strewn all around the road.
I don't recall seeing one accident in all my time living in the UK but for all my time living there, I didn't drive so I guess if I did drive i'd probably have the seen the odd few but nothing on the scale of what I see on a weekly basis since I began riding around on a scooter in Taiwan. My guess is I see 3 to 5 crashes or aftermaths of a crash a week, and that is an insanely high number when you consider I often just hop on my scooter head to work and back most days.
I myself have been involved in a handful of 'crashes' I see it lightly because I only consider one of them to be mildly serious, the others were more like bumps of some sort. If the guy I hit in the slightly serious one wanted to press charges I would likely have been blamed for it, but I would only put my portion of the blame between 10% to 30% per cent because of how ridiculous it was.
It was pissing it with rain, and I was heading home from my morning job, I wasn't speeding or going slow; I was simply just keeping the same speed with the rest of the traffic heading in the same direction. As I got closer to my home, and looked forward to getting out of the pissing rain the guy in front of me did something completely moronic, as the traffic approached an intersection, the lights began to change to red. The guy in front of me however was right at the traffic light and when it switched from green to amber, he slammed his break on to skid to a stop in front of me. The word that come out of my mouth at this point was fuuuuuuuuuuck! And I tried to quickly turn to the left to avoid him, but if you have no experience of riding any kind of bike or other two wheeled vechile you cannot suddenly turn left at speed otherwise you will come off anyway regardless what you try to stop it happening.
As I tried to swing left and avoid the moron while attempting to also break without killing myself in the process the front right side of my scooter slammed into the bloke in front of me. I don't recall how it happened as I just closed my eyes and braced for impact once I realised I had no chance of missing the idiot. Next thing I recall I'm picking myself off the floor, as the traffic is flying at me in the middle of the road. Yes, that's correct even though I am dragging myself off the floor and the other bloke looks like he could be dead due to being motionless - the traffic is still flying at us at great speeed.
I run out of the road, then shake the bloke shouting mate, don't die alright! Whatever you do just don't die man! He eventually got up, and I dragged him out of the middle of the road, then he give me some abuse for not seeing him and being an idiot. It's not that I didn't see him, of course I saw him, avoiding him wasn't easy though obviously. Then he rode off continuing to insult me for how stupid I am. Lovely pal, just lovely. My scooter was broke...all the bearings were shot, but I was alive and unhurt result!
The other times were mainly just bumps, a taxi turned into me, when I had nowhere to move to because I was blocked in the road by other traffic. Apparently, according to the taxi driver; he did nothing wrong because he indicated and I should have moved out of his way. I had a car in front of me, a car behind me, a scooter to the left, scooter right, front and back. So how exactly do I move out of his way, I can't exactly levitate.
The next time, there was a granny coming at me slowly on her scooter, but she wasn't watching the traffic she was staring in the food shops looking for something to eat, all while driving down the road paying no attention. Luckily I realised she was gonna smash right into me so I prepared myself to boot her when she got close. 1, 2, 3, hooooooof ya bastard! Pay attention! She basically shouted at me, "What the fuck are you doing?"
After that I was going somewhere with my pal from the UK in Muzha, and a taxi changed his mind in the middle of the road so he turned left then decided he wanted to go right and went right. We were right beside him when he changed his mind, and then I also went as far right as I could but if I went any further I would have been charging right into oncoming traffic. The taxi started crushing my leg, so I started booting his taxi door. All this was happening while moving along the road and trying to avoid being smashed into by oncoming traffic. Eventually he stopped, got out walked to me..."I shouted I'm going to rip your head off!" He quickly got back into his taxi and drove off. My pal was shaken but fine, my leg hurt for a week and half or something but I was fine.
and the last time, and hopefully the last time ever, I tried to turn left and some guy tried to undercut me and the mrs. He wasn't on the road when I turned but he was flying and when I saw him I just braced for impact and made sure I held the scooter upright so we didn't come off. Everything hurt after that but it would have been worse being smashed off, and I wasn't in the mood for letting that happen. The police told me that I was wrong because I didn't give way to the person coming from behind me. This sounds like total bullshit, which I told the police fella very angrily but the mrs was getting annoyed with me being furious with the police so I accepted the shit offer the dickhead was willing to pay to fix my scooter. It's a good job the mrs was there to be fair otherwise I would have likely manhandled the guy that hit me, as well as the police bloke because of the level of nonsense I was dealing with.
So those are the crashes and bumps I myself have been involved in, now onto some of the incidents I have witnessed. There is no way I can recount them all, because over the space of 7 years riding a scooter in Taiwan there is just simply too many to remember. Some of the worst and stupidiest ones however are etched into my memory forever, until the day I am 12ft under ground.
The first terrible one I saw, I was coming home from a job in Xinzhuang, and as I was going past the big Ikea out that way, a car comes flying up the other side of road does a u turn into our side of the road without looking and just smashes right through the scooter in front of me. If I had have been two seconds faster he would have hit me. The bloke in the car didn't look or care, he just turned and was going to Ikea whoever was in his way. Unfortunately the scooter in front of me was in his way, and you gotta get those Swedish meatballs at all costs man, even if it involves near killing someone.
One day on my way to football in Yonghe, I was sat at the traffic lights, and you could hear the sirens of an ambulance hurtling down the road. For some mental reason a taxi driver decided that he could beat the ambulance and make it across the road, but yep you guessed it the taxi driver succeeded in coming out and smashing right into the ambulance. That level of stupid takes some work to achieve I guess, but he had the audacity to get out of the taxi and shout at the ambulance driver. Even the taxi passenger was screaming at the ambulance driver because she had a small cut on her leg, never mind the fact the ambulance had someone in the back and was clearly taking them to hospital.
Another time, I was off out with the mrs, and we were in the Zhongshan area going for some food. I heard a massive screech and as I turned and looked I saw a car go over a scooter and bloke. From what I saw it looked like the car or the scooter broke a red light and tried to beat the traffic. I turned too late and didn't see who was right or wrong, just the car going over man and scooter. That shook me up a bit seeing that.
I saw the aftermath of two crashes that looked brutal, both times the scooter was lodged underneath a back wheel. One was a car, the other was a bin truck. Imagine that, even seeing the mess left behind was brutal, the scooter was under the back wheel of a bloody bin truck god knows what happened to the person on top of the scooter.
A week or so ago me and the mrs saw the aftermath of a crash, and there was a woman lying in the middle of the road completely passed out, motionless and not looking in a good way. We hoped she would be ok, but its not good seeing that.
Other than these that I have listed, I see the aftermath of crashes pretty much on a daily basis going to and from work. The odd thing is, Taiwan's law says if there is a crash that nothing can be moved until the police come and have a look at the scene. So if there is a crash, you can't move the car or the scooter from the middle of the road, this means all the traffic is still coming at you while you're stood in the middle of the road, that alone is pretty scary, and it also creates a massive hazard.
When I first started seeing crashes, or aftermaths of accidents I wondered why Taiwanese people never seemed bothered about them, and now I do know why. It is because they're a common every day occurence and now I have become desensitized to traffic accidents in the same way that Taiwanese people obviously have. When I see them I just think nothing of it but another accident. Never thought I would think this way but I do. I wish the police and authorites did more to ensure the traffic functioned in a safer way but they don't and it is what it is. So some of you may think I am mad for continuing to ride my scooter everywhere but at the end of the day I love having my own transport and the freedom it gives me so therefore I tolerate the risks invovled, stay alert and concentrate all the time in an attempt to not be in anymore accidents.