In my visits to Taiwan I have seen scooter cops blow past stop signs only to cut off pedestrians many times.
I first visited Taiwan in 2005, my first time away from USA, save for Canada/Mexico; and I keep a journal in which I noted things I found strange/interesting. One of the first was when I was writing about traffic, and the way its' flow differs from USA (namely what this subject describes) and no sooner did a scooter cop totally blow a stop sign, but cut off pedestrians in mid-intersection so they had to stop for him.
I have been to visit, so don't have the length of experience of residents; yet I have been to visit 4 times (a month each time), and I am a walker. I walk a minimum of 6-8km/day, usually 12-15; sometimes 20km/day.
I read about the traffic and all, so was somewhat prepared.
The more I visit the more I realize that it is like a dance performance.
Whereas in USA (as others have stated) when someone is crossing as a ped they have the right of way and are given so. But in Taiwan when someone is crossing, they are but a rock in the river to be avoided, or a bump in the road to be avoided.
That is to say, it seems almost like a dance piece. People move in and out of each other, pause, speed up, whatever the case may be, simply to keep the river of traffic flowing without getting backed up.
If this was a dance it represents a raging river. You flow along the river in a path, your own path; everyone going where they need to go. You just need to keep moving. The multitude of vehicles need to keep moving, and everyone seems to know this, for even when it's time for the foot movers or motorless movers to go they go, yet yield to keep the main flow going, all in a stop, go, pause, hurry mode, whatever they are in.
If every motor vehicle stopped for every crosser, think of the back-up that would occur...scooters, taxis, maybe even buses on their mad agendas would have to blow past; like the water in a river hitting a boulder. It doesn't stop, it passes over it or by it, continuing its' endless flow.
As I spend more time in Taiwan I really see it as a subliminal choreography. Everyone knows their place, they know the others' place, they know the layout, and all move in a flow I have found fascinating.
I have only seen a couple scooter bumps where one falls over. This amazes me. If it were not for all players to know their spot on this dance floor it would be sheer madness and bloodshed.
How many times I have seen traffic totally ignore an ambulance with sirens blaring and lights flashing only to be ignored by the multitudes of vehicles?!!! And people expect to be able to walk across an intersection? Ambulances/ Emergency vehicles should come first in terms of yielding; yet these cases don't even count for many, many motorists!!
I walk with caution. I look both ways, twice, three times. I find it works for Taipei.
I'll be back in the autumn for another month, and actually look forward to one of my favorite passtimes as I journal; that is, sitting outside my hostel watching the traffic flow like a giant river dance.