I confess that I’m starting to warm to motor scooters, I recall that in my opinionated youth (yes I was a gobshite then as well) I regarded Lambrettas with a fair amount of disdain and Vespas as just plain ridiculous, certainly not of the same genus as real motorbikes. Whilst my soul is open, I think that I should formally apologise for dissing Tamla Motown, I now know that a lot of the “Prog Rock” I listened to was indulgent narcissistic bollocks and that had I appreciated Motown as I do now maybe I would be able to dance!
Anyway, I digress, from our travels so far, we have seen that scooters and small motorbikes (e.g. Honda crunchies) provide many people on low incomes the ability to improve their lives, using them not only for personal transport but also the carriage of goods and even as the basis of many small businesses. The advantages of relatively low initial cost combined with low running costs and congestion beating agility has not been lost on the young thrusting city dwellers either, hence they are everywhere.
Over the couple of months I have been buzzing about on a variety of these machines experiencing some of the most challenging road conditions I have encountered on two wheels with Jane gamely riding pillion. This has sharpened up my defensive driving skills (especially on the Malaysian Hondas with no brakes) and rekindled my appreciation of the benefits that motorbikes offer. We shall certainly consider the purchase of some sort of scoot when we get back home, but only if it offers tangible benefits over the alternative options (look mum, I’m growing up!).
Using the roads in SE Asia is always a challenge but up to now I thought that as chaotic as they appeared, they functioned surprisingly well, probably due to the fact all users seemed to engage (often just by brief eye contact) with each other and so respond accordingly. I think this probably happens less and less in the UK due to the constant increase in traffic control systems that result in isolation and a disconnect between the different road users.
Taiwan is something else, its like an island inhabited by two species of lemmings, one motorised and one pedestrian. Having observed their behavior for over a week I became convinced that myopia is endemic. They shoot out in front of you or stop dead without warning or acknowledgment that anybody else is in the vicinity. I think that total carnage is only avoided by the fact that the majority of motorists drive as if they were engulfed in a blanket of thick fog, which in effect they are, I looked it up and it seems that its a major problem in this part of the world that is getting worse as kids are expected to study for long hours and get little exposure to natural light. Studies have shown that since the 1980’s nearsightedness has increased dramatically and that up to 90% of children in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore suffer from myopia.
Jane and I shall be back on the bike tomorrow, heading up into the mountains again, relying on maps written in Chinese for navigation, the blind dodging the blind, wish us luck!