Taipei needs better policy to accommodate bike traffic
The China Post news staffThe number of Taipei YouBike users has been increasing fast, and so have the numbers of bicycles available and rental stations. But can the city really sustain such bike traffic growth?
September 20, 2013, 12:21 am TWN
The latest data released by the Taipei government shows that more than 1 million people use the urban bike rental service every month, or over 30,000 daily. Rental rules have had to be revised recently to prevent users' prolonged use of the bicycles, which are meant for short trips around the city.
City workers are now closely monitoring the whereabouts of the bikes after a video clip was posted on the Internet a few months ago showing a man riding a YouBike up a steep mountain in central Taiwan, some 200 kilometers from the capital.
Another video posted this week shows a woman using a YouBike for her shopping errands in Hsinchu, some 75 kilometers from Taipei.
These may be rare examples of misuse of the YouBike service, but it is some of the legitimate rides on these bicycles that may cause problems.
Many of our readers must have already noticed the newly painted white signs on many of Taipei's sidewalks indicating that they are open to bicycles, although the signs clearly state that pedestrians have priority.
Do pedestrians really have priority? Very often pedestrians have to make way for bicycles speeding past.
Sidewalks in Taiwan have never been very pedestrian-friendly: they accommodate parking spaces for motorcycles, plus commodities illegally displayed in front of stores. And now they also have to serve bicycle traffic, and pedestrians have to watch out for bicycles trying to overtake them, usurping their priority.
Taipei did not encourage riders to take to the sidewalks when it started promoting the supposedly eco-friendly form of transportation.
As an experiment, the city government marked out bicycle lanes along the sides of Dunhua North and South Roads. The experiment proved a failure, as cyclists were often forced to ride onto the sidewalk to get around illegally parked vehicles. Motorists also complained that because of the bike lanes, the roads were substantially narrowed, creating traffic jams during rush hour.
But the cycling-promotion campaign was not to be thwarted, perhaps because of environmental reasons. The solution drawn up? To allow riders to use the sidewalks.