Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blame it on the bike

Article here

Somehow frustration is creeping up again when reading this article which reflects the "blame it on the biker" policy the MOT has been exercising for so many years now. It's an such easy way to deflect from the real (Infrastructural) problems.

4% of all traffic accidents are related to biking. That makes 96% of them related to pedestrians and engine enabled vehicles. Assuming the number of pedestrian accidents are in the range of bikers, could we thus conclude it would NOT be bikers causing most of accidents? No, ofcourse not.

As always, one should be very careful with such conclusions. Are these just made by MOT folks comfortably tucked away behind their desks while the sales of bikes are spiking and the infrastructure for bikes is not coming, while cars, taxis, vans, trucks and motorcycles showing more and more disrespect for bikers or did they really dig into the statistic to find the root causes?

Concentration? Where did these accidents happen City or urban areas? The article only points at the bikers, but there is not conclusion made of what MOT plans to do about it.

Data ? Where is the supporting data? Ofcourse an increase it not good, but if we would double the number of engine enabled vehicles, wouldn't we see an increase in accidents too?

Deaths? Yes, helmets may help, but helmets are a reactive solution. Wearing helmets may reduce deaths but won't reduce the number of collisions. It’s the same kind of solution like saying, "you should buy a Benz, because it’s more safe".

Lights? May help, but will Taiwan enforce to have every bike sold to be sold with lights or even sponsor it? In Europe when you buy a bike, you get it with lights. Not here. In Taipei the roads have a lot of light already and even without lights you are clearly visible. Though in IMHO behavior and the infrastructure play the major role for reducing accidents before lights will make a significant impact. Ofcourse, MOT may have have more details to challenge this view.

Awarenesss? There is so much MOT can do to improve road safety, but not much seems to happen or learned. It comes down to reporting statistics and blaming it on the biker. Why the MOT can't put some advertisement on TV to make poeple aware of bikers and pedestrians to show how cars should NOT turn and how they should give way to bikers and pedestrians? It's not happening.

Culture? Definitely culture pays a role. People are not educated either. So many parents walk their kids across the road by red light or cross the road is strange way. (In Europe you learn you should cross the way using the least distance possible).

Education? Here, people don’t even look left and right before they cross. Lack of traffic education is part of the problem also. Even in Europe bikers must point their arm into the turning direction. Do Taiwan junior high schools educate biking and traffic laws? I wonder.

Traffic laws? These may work in one country may not work somewhere else. For example in Europe a car taking a right turn the driver must look in the mirrors and give way to anyone going straight be in a motorcycles, biker or pedestrian. Is that enforced in Taiwan ? No. You just get cut off.

Behavior ? In Taipei everything in rush. No one has time and every square centimeter is used. No one will allow you any space on the road. And behavior like in this article (hopefully an exception) does not encourage to point out to car drivers their bad behavior. Would you dare to challenge any driver, even he drives completely insane, then get punished twice by assault? Those insane drivers are often, yes, insane.. so, be careful. “don’t see, don’t look and don’t talk" might better while we hope MOT start to sort out the true root causes and systemic solutions.

Conclusion: So where bikers need to go? Do bikers need to stay twisting an turning around pedestrians (which complaints are rising) or around the illegally parked cars, taxis vans and the buses which are always in such a hurry to pick up people so they cut off bikers which need to stop every 50 to 100 meters for those buses. There are so many parent and grandparents riding their kids to school. In the small lane where I live, the number of parked bikers has exploded and are more than motorcycles. (which is a good thing actually), however it leaves less room for motorcycles and the chaos is only increasing. Now when driving your car you need to start looking out more and more for parked motorcycles and bikes that are sticking out and potentially damage cars.

The Taipei roads belong to motorbikes and cars, the sidewalk to pedestrians. Bicycles fall somewhere in between (in the big gap) and after so many years, the MOT still hasn't really figure it out how to approach a solid solution the infrastructure and change of behavior of the drivers of engine driven vehicles.

Note: MOT = Ministry Of Transportation

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