There has been lots written about the various participants of traffic in the big cities of Taiwan, taxi drivers, scooters and so on, but I haven’t seen any mention of traffic cops. Maybe it’s cause I haven’t scanned through the entire “most whacked things…” thread, but here I go anyway:
How about these poor, airport-issue-lightstick-waving SOB’s, these untouchables of the Taiwanese law enforcement caste system, these living monuments of redundancy, these testaments to cheap labor? Does it strike anyone as weird: cops who direct traffic at intersections where the lights are working ?? There would be a nice oxymoron, if only I could condense it into two words …
I’ve seen cops deployed at busy intersections in other parts of the world, but only in times of unusual congestion (due to strikes, flooding, etc.), or to replace traffic lights temporarily out of service. But these guys are there every day during morning and evening rush hour. Major intersections usually get at least two guys, while many lesser intersections get one. In Taipei alone, this has got to add up to over a thousand uniformed officers, doing what exactly?
Their main duty - excuse my naiveness - seems to be to tell us when the lights turn red and when they turn green. Since both of these events are signalled with the same rapid whistling, one must refer to the light for clarification. Once traffic is moving, their secondary task is to rush the motorists along - as if motorists here needed rushing - with agitated hand gesturing and more whistling.
At the busier intersections with 2 or more cops, the 7-11 “huan ying guang lin” mentality prevails. That is, as soon one cop whistles, the others quickly reinforce him in concert. Perhaps there is a seniority system that determines who gets to whistle first, louder and longer.
Could the reason for traffic cops be just a visible presence of authority, to discourage a complete disregard for traffic laws and anarchy on the roads? These guys are clearly not there to enforce the law, they’re too busy (and in the wrong place) to actually pull people over. I see no purpose in their existence, except to make the driving in Taiwan an even less humane and more sheep-like experience.
I now toss out the hypothetical question – what would happen if, starting tomorrow, the thousands of traffic-directing cops in Tiawan got desk jobs?