Saturday, December 22, 2012

Life on a scooter

The scooter is the go-to vehicle in Taipei, but it's not just a transport tool. It's a home-away-from-home, a seat that carries you where you want to go, a magic carpet that expresses your identity.

I met this couple at a helmet shop. His Yamaha has a unique gold front piece and wheels. I said I liked its Taiwanese style, but he pointed out that it was actually in the Japanese style. He was proud of his rear lights, which he said were one-of-a-kind, and that he had designed and built them himself. He also designed his girlfriend's scooter, with the hot pink rail on the seat back and wheels.

He works at the helmet shop that you can see behind him. He was happy to pose with his bike, and when I told him about this blog, he gave me his contact information so I could let him know where it is at. He also got onto Facebook via his smart phone and showed me photos from a scooter-con he recently attended at the multi-level parking garage in Ximending. I'll sniff around and try to find out when more of these activities are occurring.
I hope everyone I photograph on the street is so happy to attract my attention.  The jackets they are wearing, with the stripes on the waist band are definitely Taipei-Scooter-Style.

Something about heavy traffic makes smokers want to light up. 

You have to wonder where his feet are going to go. On the side and to the back, of course. He's probably updating his status on Facebook. And yes, it is illegal to use communication devices when driving a scooter. I've never seen a cop stop anyone for it, but those days can't be far away. Now that they have goten most riders to wear helmets, the police will need to move along to the next blatant infraction. 

I love their hands. 

Yes, that's a baby in a stroller wedged between the steering column and the seat. I couldn't see a head, and judging from the angle the baby is sitting, I'd say the infant was probably fast asleep. The thrumming of a scooter's engine has that effect on babies, that and all of the carbon monoxide pumping out of the surrounding exhaust pipes. 

The photo of the guy on the left is a perfect example of why scooters are so convenient. You can ride them like a motor vehicle when it suits your purpose, or you can get off and walk them like a bicycle when you need to cross the road on a red light. Don't try riding along the crosswalk like that, or a police officer could wave you over with his traffic-directing baton and give you a ticket. 

Riding along next to buses, you can't help but read the advertisements pasted on their side. I'd imagine a holiday in Okinawa would seem like a pretty good idea to this woman. 

You always see lots of couples riding together on scooters. Nine times out of ten, the woman is on the back, and she's got to hold on somehow. Her tight grip could either be a sign of true love or suggest that her boyfriend likes to accelerate quickly away when the light turns green. It's no coincidence that they are both wearing sparkly helmets. What better way to show the world that you are together?

These photos were all taken at the intersection of Zhongshan N. Road and Civil Boulevard at approximately 6:30 P.M.