Cross-cultural Street-crossing

Everett Savage, who lived in Taiwan from 1957 to 1996, told us early on in our own sojourn there that seeing a traffic light operating at an intersection in Kaohsiung only meant that the electricity was connected. Whether it was showing red, yellow or green had little effect on how vehicles, especially two-wheeled ones, proceeded through. 

We were moved to think of Everett’s advice this afternoon while out for a walk in our Holland, MI neighborhood.  We live in the middle of a block that had one end closed off about 30 years ago to improve traffic flow for the cross-street at that end. That closure turned a 5-way intersection into a 3-way, and created two block-long dead ends. Our street is quiet.



A project to replace the underground infrastructure on our block and 6 more to the west began 3 months ago. Even the stop sign was taken down. Entry and exit for local residents was permitted before and after work was done each day. Our single intersection was semi-blocked to us, and through traffic on the typically busy road at that end was detoured around. We became accustomed to crossing that street without more than a glance for moving vehicles.

Earlier this week the pavers put things right again, and at noon today the detour signs were removed. Returning home from a walk; I was ready to meander across the road when Char reached out and stopped me. A line of cars, going about 30 miles an hour, went past.  I noticed that our stop sign is back up, too.

Henceforth, not only when walking, but particularly when driving, we’ll have to get used to looking for traffic, like Everett told us to do in Kaohsiung in the 1980s.

David Alexander resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.