Some Tainan moves just wouldn't fly in Taipei.
I’m a big fan of lax driving regulations and road rule enforcement.
That’s right, I said it.
My parents still remind me of when a grade school teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My response, “A policeman’s best friend.” Unsure of my point, the teacher assumed I meant police officer. She asked me why I added the friend part. My reply, “So I don’t get speeding tickets like my dad.”
So maybe it came from my old man. As a matter of fact, both of my parents are speed demons. The family has this insane competition of “setting record times” on road trips to visit family. I’m pretty sure my NH to NJ in 3.5 hours is still standing.
Well, on this side of the globe, China and Taiwan in particular, road rules are treated more as suggestions…. and that’s exactly how it should be.
I mean, come on. How many times have you come to a red light in the middle of the night, well-lit intersection, stopped, looked around, no cars. And still you sit there and wait. And wait. And wait. I mean, it’s asinine.
When I’m driving in the States, I’m at a heightened sense of paranoia. I’m all over the mirrors. I’ve got all sorts of strategies to spot cops. Gotta be wary of emergency crossovers in the median. Gotta double check on-ramps in the rear-view. Just gotta cover all your bases, because in the good ol’ US-of-A cops are a problem. Traffic cops in particular. They are there to ruin your day.
Believe me when I say, there is no greater satisfaction that spotting a cop perched behind an overpass and locking up the brakes to drop to 9 over, just in time to avoid his radar, cruising past, enduring that 30 seconds of “Am I fucked or not?” and then realizing you escaped justice once more! Yes, villian that I am, 80mph in a 65 or whatever. Maniac.
Now, Tainan has to be my favorite place to drive that I have ever lived– and wait– let me say this to all the people who are going to get all paranoid about driving without heeding every regulation: Here is what you don’t understand, driving in a less-enforced road environment is actually safer.
Now, I may not have the stats to back that up. And, yes, I have seen my fair share of gory accidents here– but that isn’t to say they don’t exist in the States or elsewhere. Think of it like the no speed-limit sections of the Autobahn– you don’t hear people bitching about them all the time.
So, here in Tainan, I am free as a bird. I routinely run red lights and make illegal lefts– directly in front of police officers. They don’t care. As long as it was in “good taste,” you know, not something outrageous, they are all for it. Honk and wave, maybe even, as you pass.
How lax is the driving in Tainan? Well, red lights are optional. There is no such thing as a “no turn on red.” Speed limits are optional. Scooter-restricted lanes are optional. There are very few speed/red light cameras (at least none to my knowledge.) And you’d be surprised how incredibly convenient these non-rules are.
Now, getting to the bread-and-butter here, I want to talk about a term I am pretty sure I have invented: “The Tainan Left.”
It’s one of my favorite moves, and this is how it works.
You see, in Taiwan, in an effort to protect scooter drivers, we are required to make “box turns” at almost every intersection. This means, no left turns. If we want to turn left, we proceed halfway through the intersections, then stop in a designated box on the right in the direction of our intended turn. Ya falla? Back to the Tainan Left.
A Tainan Left works like this: rather than simply (and dangerously) trying to either ignore the box left rule by “shooting the gap” (just turning anyway) or “jumping the gun” (shooting the gap as the light is about to turn green), you totally flip the odds in your favor.
As you notice a light turning red (or even not) in an upcoming intersection, as long as there are no cars coming at that time, you cross the double yellow and start driving on the side of the far-side of the road against traffic. Most advisable is doing this about 100ft or 30m from the intended turn. So you preemptively cross the double yellow (GWB would love this move), then while the perpendicular traffic is still stopped at their light, you simply cruise past and take your left.
Or, if you do this as your light is about to turn red (be careful for perpendiculat traffic turning right), you simply wait at the corner for a few, and as your light turns green, you hop out and take your turn, thus avoiding a potential 90-second wait in the box.
You get it?
And don’t think I am the only practitioner of this move. Far from it. This is learned behavior.
I call it the Tainan Left because it is modus operandi around here. A rule of the streets, if you will.
P.S. Mom, I hope you didn’t read this. Trust me, I am being safe and “making smart choices,” ok?