Fri, Nov 26, 2010 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Preserving remote places

Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) recently discussed the merits of upgrading the Suhua Highway (“Placing facts back in Suhua debate,” Nov. 19, page 8). One consideration I would like to add is whether easy access to every place is really a desirable goal. Disregarding the obvious costs to taxpayer and environment for the moment, building a faster and safer road at first always sounds like a good idea. However, the difficulty of reaching a remote place may enhance the charm of the travel experience.

To use an extreme example: I think most people would agree that being put on top of Mount Everest by a helicopter, although quicker and safer, would not really match the experience of climbing up its flanks for days, risking life and limb. We should value the fact that some places on earth remain remote, and that the effort of getting there is part of the quality of the travel experience.

I have heard it said there is no place in Taiwan that is so beautiful that a little bit of concrete would not increase its beauty. We should perhaps pause for a moment and consider whether the old Suhua Highway, because of the way it is built and the scenery it offers, is not worth preserving, and that the money would be better spent on enforcing traffic regulations and safe driving. From Chan Shun-kuei’s article, it is apparent that the old Suhua Highway is not really inherently dangerous, but that it is reckless driving that endangers people. Several thousand people die on Taiwan’s roads each year, making it a leading cause of death.

I always wonder what kind of money would be thrown at a terrorist group that would annually kill several thousand people, but when it comes to protecting us against the terrorists of the street, the government of Taiwan appears to be especially complacent. Numerous recent letters in the Taipei Times have pointed out that, for a country that has so much going for it, the appalling driving habits and the almost nonexistent enforcement of traffic rules are a real blight on this country.

I would strongly recommend that, in order to protect some of the remaining beautiful, natural and quiet places of Taiwan, the government of Taiwan should spend its money on making its existing streets safer instead of relentlessly building more and more roads into even the remotest corners of the country, or upgrading its existing ones. Thus, the present Suhua Highway would not just become a safer road to travel on, but also a relaxing travel experience through one of the more remote and scenic areas of Taiwan. The charm is in getting there — slowly and safely.

BRUNO WALTHER

Taipei

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