Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - Page 4 News List

COMMUNITY COMPASS: LETTER: Make the streets safer for pedestrians

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As a frequent visitor to Taiwan and having recently spent four weeks there, I feel compelled to draw attention to the second-class status of pedestrians.

In every town and city in Taiwan, the car is king. If it’s got wheels, be it car, motorcycle or bicycle, the poor pedestrian must make room for it. To go for a walk is to embark on an obstacle course and risk your life.

A visitor, if he is from the West, is taking his life in his hands if he attempts to cross the road on a pedestrian crossing, thinking that the traffic will stop for him, because it won’t.

Crossing the road, even at traffic lights, is a dangerous operation, because motorcycles will come at you from all directions, including taking short-cuts on the wrong side of the road.

The sidewalk is a dumping ground, not only for parked cars and motorcycles, but for anything that people don’t want in their houses. People seem to extend their houses onto the sidewalk and even run businesses there — without a licence, I suspect. I’ve seen 100mm drain pipes fixed permanently across the sidewalk.

Every section of sidewalk is a different level, making it dangerous for the very young and the old and infirm. I don’t know how the disabled and the blind manage the numerous obstructions.

I’m sure there are laws to regulate all of this, but it seems that the authorities — from the very lowly right up to the top — don’t pay the slightest heed to these problems.

I suggest that government ministers and local officials step out of their chauffeur-driven limousines and take a walk around Taiwan’s cities and towns.

I read an article in your paper about encouraging more foreign visitors to come to Taiwan. In the present economic downturn and with unemployment on the rise, it seems to me that there is a golden opportunity for the government to create public works jobs by using tax dollars to remedy this situation.

Patrick O’Donohue

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