Quick navigation: | Top | How to cross the street | Taiwan's de facto traffic rules | The "blue truck" game | My fight against Taichung's villanous city bus drivers
Can you say Fei1 Chang2 Tai2 Wan1?
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MIDI from the game "Doom"
by Robert Prince
(Last update to this page: 8/15/2002)

Taiwan's traffic is hard to describe to someone who hasn't been here before. It's scary. It's mind-boggling. It's impossible to understand. It's slow and fast at the same time. It's dangerous as all hell, especially for the small (compact cars, scooters, and pedestrians).
The January 23, 2000 edition of the English-language China Times quoted some horrifying recent statistics on Taiwan's traffic. The article said that in 1999, 20.63 million traffic citations were given out. That's nearly one for every person (including babies) in the whole country! This was an increase of 5.47 million from the previous year. The statistics also showed a total of 2,487 (reported) accidents resulting in 2,393 deaths (96% fatality rate). In 1998 there were 2,720 accidents reported which resulted in 2,507 deaths (92% fatality rate). ..
This car was either flying, made of tissue paper, or both! Notice the marks on the tree above the car, the lack of tracks leading up to the accident site, and the fact that this very small tree isn't even slightly bent!

Gravel trucks are also notorious for violating traffic regulations and causing fatalaties in Taiwan. Be sure to stay out of their way! Read the entire China Times article here.

Not as horrifying, but just as repulsive is the 3/1/2000 report that says scooter riders in Taipei average 3 traffic tickets yearly generating NT$3.81 billion for the city.
A May 2000 report by Formosa TV (in Big-5 Chinese) says that an average of 3.8 children per day die in Taiwan as a result of accidents--a good many of which involve the buses which take them to and from school. In January of this year, I gave the driver of one of these buses a good verbal reaming when she pulled out in front of my bicycle without looking or even slowing down. I hope it left a strong impression on the children--as long as they understood!
On Wednesday, 2/23/2000, the Taipei City Government's office of traffic adjudication released a list of companies that owe the city government the most in unpaid traffic fines. Topping the list is a "well-known high-tech company on Nanchang Road" whose fines exceed NT$1.5 million. Read the Taipei Times article on this here.
Below are a couple of examples to give you a mental image of what "normal" traffic is according to Taiwan's standards.

On the evening of January 22, 2000, I was aboard a bus stuck in traffic, and as I gazed out of the window, I counted 2 taxis, 1 van, a sedan, and 2 motorcycles making a right turn onto a one-way street against the posted direction of traffic. The street was a wide one divided by a grassy median, and apparently, the drivers of at least some of these vehicles wanted to take a short cut. One of the taxis, the van, and one motorcycle turned left a very short distance later, but the rest continued on for several blocks before disappearing from view. Fortunately (?), not a single vehicle was traveling in the posted direction.

Randy Carpenter, currently residing in Tampa, Florida (USA) wrote this tale: "When I went back (to Taiwan) in August (1999), I remember taking a very scary cab ride with a few of my friends. I asked a friend of mine to ask the cabbie what was the fastest speed he ever drove his cab at. Big mistake. The cabbie's breath smelt like Kaoliang liquor and betel nut. Well, he then proceeded to show us and started speeding. He even started passing all the other cars by driving into an oncoming lane of traffic. By the grace of God we made it to our destination." I asked Randy if his friend had used the appropriate grammatical tense in his question. His reply: "My friend did use past tense when he asked the driver about the fastest speed he had ever driven. I also remember my friend turning around with a very scared look on his face telling me that the driver said he would show us." A lesson to be learned: Be careful what you ask for -- you might get it!
Quick navigation: | Top | How to cross the street | Taiwan's de facto traffic rules | The "blue truck" game | My fight against Taichung's villanous city bus drivers
How to cross the street:

To the novice, it may seem impossible to cross the street in places without pedestrian underpasses or footbridges, but it isn't as difficult as it may seem. It does, however, require a bit of courage and maybe even some faith in the supernatural. Here's how it works. Wait for a relatively large number of motorcycles (scooters) to approach, then make like a chicken, and cross the road. In theory, the scooters will go around you, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for those who don't (have their eyes peeled)! Oh yeah! Don't forget to cross your fingers and knock on wood before taking that "great leap forward." Hahahahahaha!
The "Taiwanese left turn"

Making a left turn in Taiwan is not as simple as it may seem, especially if the "turner" in question is on a motorcycle. Here's how it's done. Shortly before arriving at the place you'd like to turn left (but not too shortly), you should cross the road and drive along the shoulder against the posted direction of traffic. After rounding the corner, proceed against traffic for a short while (but not too short of a while) before gradually making your way back to the right shoulder of the road.

Update: 7-11-2000 (National Convenience Store Day?). A new "legal" left turn has been introduced to Taichung City. It is called the "2-point left turn." As of July 15, when motorcyclists arrive at an intersection where there is no left turn signal, they should cross the road and make an awkward right turn (against the stopped traffic) eventually maneuvering the bike toward their intended destination (presumably stopping in the middle of the crosswalk). When that light turns green, they can then proceed. Whew! Now I know what Taiwanese people mean when they say, "Don't think too much"!

Another update: 7-28-2002. Over two years after I wrote the above paragraph, most Taiwanese motorcyclists still cannot properly execute a 2-point left turn. Although many pedestrian crossings have been moved back and a small rectangle painted (supposedly to allow those making 2-point turns a place to stop), both cars and motorcycles approaching the red light stop there, disallowing turning motorcyclists to go where they should.

If you're interested in how to be a safer motorcyclist, a 1,000 KB PDF document (actually written for bicycles, but equally applicable to motorcycle safety) is available for download here: http://www.ci.fort-collins.co.us/bicycling/pdf/cbm-rulesofroad.pdf. You can either open the link in your browser or save it to disk for future reference. I recommend the latter choice.
Quick navigation: | Top | How to cross the street | Taiwan's de facto traffic rules | The "blue truck" game | My fight against Taichung's villanous city bus drivers


  • Drive on either side of the street -- it doesn't matter (see above)
  • No speed limit on small streets
  • Freeway speed limit 40 km/hr., except on the shoulder (no limit)
  • Taxi drivers and other impatient, discourteous people making left turns are required to pass all other cars already waiting in the turn lane and go to the front
  • Taxi drivers who want to go straight when there is a red light should go to the empty left turn lane so they can get a head start just before the light turns green
  • Blowing your horn loudly, in rapid staccato, or at great length gives you the right of way (unless a larger vehicle runs you over anyway, in which case your family might get a small amount of money to help them overcome their grief)
  • Police cars often flash their beacons as standard operating procedure (though not always). If the police are behind you with their flashers on (but no siren), don't pull over or they'll suspect you of something. (This is true.)
  • Ambulances are not an entirely different matter. If, for some strange reason, you've stopped at a red light and an ambulance approaches from the rear with its siren wailing, you should immediately enter a catatonic state and not budge until the light turns green, even though the person in the back of the ambulance may be at death's door. If you're in moving traffic, make every effort to block passage.

  • Night traffic
    Look at all those pretty lights!
    Happy (?) Lunar New Year!
    Would you rather be doing anything else?


  • No age requirement
  • Normal capacity: 2 adults and 3 children (can be extended to 3 adults under "special" circumstances)
  • Helmets only required in police check zones
  • Park on the sidewalk (really) or with at least one third of the bike in the traffic lane
  • When people are getting off of buses, make every effort to drive on the right side and disregard the disembarking passengers
  • Don't use your headlights at night, especially on poorly lit streets or when driving at high speeds
  • If you must use your headlights at night, be sure to put a helmet or large shopping bag in the basket so that the light will be of no use

  • 3-on-1
    Notice A-Ma's "helmet" (she's on the back)


  • Someone must be parked on the street corner at all times
  • Double parking is required in order to maintain the minimum traffic congestion requirements
  • If someone gives you a traffic ticket, they must park illegally to do so, preferably against the posted direction of traffic
  • Park as close to the NO PARKING sign as possible
  • If a NO PARKING sign makes things inconvenient, just move the sign to a more convenient location

  • Pedestrians

  • Sidewalks, where they exist, are not primarily for pedestrians (except to serve as obstacle courses -- this aids in the preparation for mandatory military training). They are actually designed as motorcycle parking lots and box storage facilities. Actually, if a sidewalk is flat and spacious, it should be used for motorcycle traffic. If your car, truck, or BUS fits (I've seen this!), go for it!
  • Walking IN the street is often faster and less dangerous than going the sidewalk route
  • Daily exercise for the elderly will be graciously provided in the form of bus-chasing (Read a Taipei Times article on the subject here.)

  • Quick navigation: | Top | How to cross the street | Taiwan's de facto traffic rules | The "blue truck" game | My fight against Taichung's villanous city bus drivers
    The "blue truck" game:

    There are so many nearly identical blue trucks in Taiwan, I have made it into a game for English students. Here's one variation of how it works. Two or more people play. One says a verb. The next time they see a blue truck (probably within 10 seconds), the first player yells, "Blue truck!" The next player must then say a verb beginning with the last letter of the previous verb. If they can't think of a word, the other player gets a point. Try it! (See how many verbs you can think of that begin with "e" or "n," then imagine the difficulty a non-native speaker would have doing the same thing!) For a couple more variations of this game, it might be fun -- if impossible -- to do it based on car/truck/bus/motorcycle horns, convenience stores, or cell phones instead.
    Quick navigation: | Top | How to cross the street | Taiwan's de facto traffic rules | The "blue truck" game | My fight against Taichung's villanous city bus drivers
    I've written MANY letters to Taichung's (now former-) mayor Chang Wen-Ying complaining about the terrible service of the city's bus company, and a local English-language newspaper (The China Post) published an article about my complaints (referring to me only as "the foreigner"), but the rude and dangerous bus drivers remain at large. I have heard (though I can't prove it) that Chang's HUSBAND owns the damn bus company. Perhaps -- just perhaps -- this could explain the lack of action.

    If YOU feel like writing a letter to the mayor, click here (don't try typing that URL!), and you can write a letter online. I'm sure it would be better if you can write Hanzi (Mandarin text), but English is okay. I've actually spoken to the mayor's translator (Teresa Tsai -- Cai4 Feng1 He2) on the phone (04-2228-9111 ext. 2502) a couple of times in my attempts to effect some change. Taichung's former Mayor Chang Wen-Ying
    Taichung's former Mayor Chang Wen-Ying

    Subsequent arguments with bus drivers have forced me to step up my fight against them. I located two e-mail addresses for the Ministry of Transportation here and here, and I've written a letter which I hope will get some action before I have to take matters into my own hands. (Well, I almost did once when a bus driver followed me off of the bus and wanted to fight with me.)

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