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Monday, May 24, 2010

Death On Wheels: A Cycling Guide To Taiwan's Most Dangerous Cars

6: Toyota Altis

The Toyota Altis comes in at a close number six mainly because of the large numbers of them on the roads. The Altis is considered to be a decent car and it is often driven by young professionals as their first car bought for them by their parents as a graduation or wedding gift. Often, Taiwanese parents will buy big ticket items for their children to insert themselves into a relationship or purchase filial piety. At risk of sounding cynical, these gifts are a means of extending parental control over children once they have left the home. The Altis is often driven by self-important young people who still feel like the world should revolve around them and they drive like it.

5: Taichung Taxi

Taxis in Taiwan are known to be driven by hoodlums and maniacs and in Taichung we have the best of them. I have been in taxis that hydroplaned trough city streets in rain storms. One amphetamine addled driver buzzed a police station making play gun shot noises while he waved his arm out the window as if shooting a gun. He later took a freeway offramp at about 70mph toward a brick wall... with his hands off the wheel. My mother was not amused. Taxis are aggressive bullies of the road that use brute force to negotiate traffic. The taxi only made it to a 4th place standing for the fact that they are easily seen, universally recognized as a hazard and the drivers must receive some sort of licensing.

4: Mitsubishi 4x4 Van

The scourge of the mountain roads is the Mitsubishi 4x4 minivan. These are usually encountered during mountain rides and in the countryside. The owners jack these terrors dangerously high for such a narrow wheelbase and then take the mountain roads at very high speeds. There is an overall sentiment of invincibility on Taiwan's roads where the concept of fate reigns supreme. These little bastards have it is spades. If they don't hit you they may tip over on you. An added danger is the higher possibility that the drivers are not licensed and often totally wasted.

3: Toyota Zace

The Toyota Zace haunts dreams and comes with a devil may care attitude. Just look at it and you know immediately how it is driven. "Just look at the bones!"

2: CMC Mini Truck
The dreaded CMC minitruck ranks second on the list as it is cheap, easily obtainable and the preferred transportation for many of the occupations that are fueled by alcohol. It is the Saturday Night Special, the Zip Gun of Taiwanese automobiles. Anyone can hop in and drive one of these trucks and they may or may not be insured. These little devils shoot out of side streets and sweep across six lanes of traffic at full speed. They are cheaply built and lack many of the safety features that can be found in most other modern vehicles. Blue Death.

1: Nissan Cefiro

The reigning champion is the dreaded Nissan Cefiro. Of all the dangerous vehicles listed this one tops my list as a danger to cyclists. It looks like a reasonable, modern vehicle that should be no more dangerous than any other, but I have a theory. The Nissan Cefiro is designed to evoke the classy and elegant lines of the more refined European luxury cars. They are obviously emulating the big daddy of Taiwanese status symbols; the Mercedes, but for a much lower price point. Those who would like a Mercedes and can not afford one pick up a Cefiro. They have the same feeling of entitlement on the roads as those with the European luxury cars, but they also have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder that they are not behind the wheel of a Benz or a Beamer. They drive with anger and arrogance. They truly would like to imagine they are VIPs on their way to an emergency meeting in Geneva. The Cefiro owners lay on the horn, weave, speed through lights and make creative turns. They are also "classy" enough for the middle aged man who goes out with the boss and returns home drunk. The Cefiro is a staple of the KTV and "Entertainment Center" parking lot. I have seen more shithead Cefiro drivers than any other in my 12 years in Taiwan. That is why the Cefiro speeds off with the prize for the Most Dangerous Car To Cyclists In Taiwan. Congratulations Cefiro... you earned it!


  1. Once again, the Taiping gravel truck is cheated a place in the top 5. Really?! It is truly the Suzanne Lucci of dangerous Taiwanese vehicles. I think it at least deserves a lifetime achievement award.

    And as to the Zace... Gah! Never trust a car/truck with wheels that little. It is an abomination.

  2. Gravel Trucks and Scooters are in a class by themselves so they were not included in this ranking. I imagine gravel trucks could be done by district and scooters could be done by scooters.

  3. I would have to say the little blue trucks are number 1 and taxis are number 2 or vice-versa, it really is too close to call. I have been hit once though, but was two dazed to remember the type of car that hit me. I think it was an SUV, not sure what make though.

  4. The big difference is that taxis and blue trucks drive with belligerence and stupidity... the Cefiro drives with malice.

  5. I just sold my Cefiro last month. I believe that the plastic seats emit a chemical that makes the driver insane. I hope so at least, otherwise my increasing instability is due to genetic factors.

  6. Hi! Who do you usually ride with in Taizhong? Rocky from Team Mosaic?

  7. Wow! I agree 100% with you about the Cefiro. I have noticed the same phenomenon with this particular car, but could never have articulated the reasons why as well as you have. Good job!

  8. Thanks Rod! I call 'em like I see 'em.

  9. Virginia, Rocky is my builder and I have ridden with them on occasion. I am in his shop regularly, but their schedule if ten conflicts with my own projects, so I don't ride with them as often as I'd like.

    I do a lot of solo work and I really enjoy riding with some good friends. It isn't the competitive riding as much as social, but then there are other riders I ride with when I want to ramp it up.


    I love your blog! I am so jealous you get to ride Hualien so often.



  10. Ben is having trouble posting a comment, so I will post it with credit going to Ben G.

    Here's one I prepared for the article on death machines:

    So there I was tonight filling up my water bottles on a side street next to a junction and Mr Toyota pulls a right into my side street just as Mr Cefiro attempts to back his ridiculously over-extended deathwagon out into the street. A quick horn from Toyota averted what could easily have been a few hours with police, photos, insurance and mutual recriminations. To make sure as Cefiro guy finally pulled out and past me I checked that yes it was the offending model. In the flesh the hideous thing is way too long at the back and front. I must say though that as a scooter/motorbike fan I have a lot more in common with 2 wheels than four. One other observation. A few years back I rode out to Ouwanda. A lovely trip nearly ruined by a road chocked full of rented 4x4s as shown above all driven by wannabe off roaders who wouldn't know how to activate the 4 wheel drive if it smacked them in the head. One vehicle you didn't mention: the Honda Accord (GangstaMod) - you hear it before you see it and when you do see it, it is usually flying past you at a distance of inches, fairing practically scrapping up the tarmac. Prats.

  11. I find the lowered Mitsubishi Gangster Gallant to be far more frightening than the Accord. Still, when I see a Cefiro, I steer clear. They are as deadly and unpredictable as a Bomarc Missile.

  12. Tee hee - though I'd have added the Shuang-B cars, too: they don't have a chip on their shoulder because the drivers really can afford the big guns, but those same drivers honestly do think they're invincible. What's more, half the time those cars are driven by hired drivers, not the actual owner of the vehicle, and if there's anyone in the world with a death wish, it's a full-time chauffeur for some ***hole in a Benz. Both cars have a proud history of being driven by captains of industry (or being driven for them, with said captains of industry in the back with a "Special KTV" hostess), the same ones in cahoots with KMT politicians (OK, DPP too) who have made lifelong careers of treating middle class locals and the general Hoklo population like second-class dirt.

    I make a point of sticking my tongue out at every Shuang-B douche who cuts me off on my bike, or walking before a typhoon hits with an umbrella. "Hey, you - yeah, at least I have a soul".

    BTW, regarding taxi drivers...agreed. But one of my best friends' fathers is a taxi driver, and they are so much fun to talk to when you get onto the topic of politics. Plus, if you're nice you can score free betel nut sometimes.

  13. Oh, and anyone with a "made up spoiler". You know, the guys in mid-size family sedans who get some ridiculous "Look at me, I can drive like NASCAR" papier-mache spoiler tacked on the back for NO REASON WHATSOEVER.

  14. Well technically, "trying to look cool" is a reason.

  15. Jenna, your description is right on. I find Benz drivers to be the least attentive and BMW drivers to be the most willing to showboat.

    The Scenario you described reminds me of the movie, "The Taste of Apples", about an american military officer who smashes into a Taiwanese guy with his Caddie and all the trouble it causes the government and the family in dealing with the issue. At the end the officer gives the family a box of apples, which were considered food for the wealthy, but James Soong thought it reflected poorly on the KMT's (in)ability to manage Taiwan for the Taiwanese and insisted the film finish with the added text, "Apples don't actually taste very good."

  16. Our company had a Cefiro - you are absolutely correct about them.

    I have actually ridden in a CMC truck. Hitched a ride with our printer to the factory. Amazingly underpowered and a small cab.

    White Mercedes/BMWs used to be driven mainly by incompetent female drivers, but maybe that has improved in recent years. (I used to confirm the driver was female whenever one of those vehicles did something dumb.)

  17. Brilliant! This makes me nostalgic for my old Yulong Sunny, which would certainly have been on this list in the early 90s. Another sign of the times is the omission of illegally overloaded gravel trucks, which once upon a time would not only hit pedestrians or cyclists, but would back up over them a few times to make sure they were dead. They were too heavy to stop with the extra boards on the side doubling their payloads, and the drivers had to drive fast because they got paid by the load. Everyone was terrified of them.

  18. The gravel truck is in its own category. I remember that gravel truck incident. It was cheaper to pay for a death than to compensate an injured victim for life.

    The Sunny and Bluebird. Who names a car a "Bluebird" in Taiwan? Dont they know?