My man Drew's Taiwan in Cycles gets a mention in the China Post in an editorial on (f*ck yeah!) how cycling in Taiwan is done all wrong. Great work, Drew! The CP says:
Let's face the biggest problem straight off the bat — the central and local governments like cycling because of cash and self-promotion. It comes as no surprise that this year's Tour de Taiwan route — like those before it — was taken to task by cyclists for being dull. The Taiwan in Cycles blog actually summed it up quite well as “a bunch of boring crap.” Instead of showing what they were made of by pushing up the alpine hills of Hehuanshan or following the turquoise seas of the East Coast, entrants battled mainly boredom and muggy air. Keeping the event profitable, both monetarily and politically, means keeping its route bound to densely populated areas instead of using the event's considerable exposure to help make the country be taken seriously by the international racing community.I blogged on why the Tour was so awful here, with maps and all (in the comments there is an explanation of why the Tour de Taiwan routes are so awful). Drew's original post is here. Great work, China Post, in using Drew's trenchant blog and in pushing cycling, for which the island is so totally suited. Great work, Drew, in being relevant (Drew's own post).
The excellent editorial itself hits many of the problems:
Making this jump [to bike commuting] would be far from difficult. Cycling is already popular, folding bicycles are common, Taipei is generally flat and there is already an extensive public transport system that allows bicycles to be carried onboard, making mixed-mode commuting easy. The biggest obstacle is getting bike paths constructed to make commuting safe. Dedicated bicycle lanes are not and will never be sufficient, given the local driving habits and amount of traffic. Taipei's YouBike system is admirable but is not built for commuting and the capital needs a systematic overhaul of its roadways and road rules. Unfortunately other attempts at cycling paths are not encouraging, like ones in which motorists unflinchingly dive in and out of the lane and others with uncomfortable, tiled surfaces.These are all things that Drew and I and other cyclists have complained about for years. Just yesterday I rode around the bike paths outside Ershuei. The landscape was enjoyable, but the surface of the "bike path" was appalling. As you can see in the above pic, a steady flow of powered vehicles has ripped huge holes in the path surface. We were passed several times by blue trucks carrying farm equipment. The routine use of bike paths by vehicles for driving and parking is a problem all over the nation, in both rural and urban areas. So is the insane use of bricks, tile, and cobble for biking surfaces. If I were cynical I'd be arguing that someone was making a bundle using leftover bricks and cobbles for bike lane surfaces, but of course I am never like that. But the lack of law enforcement, and the poor choice of surface materials, reinforces the view that the government's bike lanes are simply Potemkin villages not meant for a serious change in the island's lifestyle.
The CP editorial correctly points out that the metro could permit bikes, but in fact it permits only at some stations and then only on weekends. The first step would be to permit bikes on the metro all day long at every station except for Taipei Station during off-peak hours.
Not only is Taipei flat, it is also not very large. Lead the nation, folks!
Another issue that would have to be addressed is Taiwan Railway's often bizarre bike rules. At major tourist cycling stops such as Fangliao (for Kenting) and Fulong (NE coast) you can ship a bike by train as a parcel, but you can't ship one out -- you have to ride the train with the bike back to another station like Songshan or Keelung to ship it as baggage. The act of putting a bike in a bag -- any bag, even a plastic garbage bag -- means that shipping is free on so-called "bike trains" as luggage, whereas on the same train shipping the bike unbagged means that you pay the express parcel shipping fee. The last time I trained to Hualien there was a group of cyclists who had special bags so large they didn't have to disassemble their bikes; they just popped the bike whole into the bag, zipped it up, and schlepped it onto the train. The "designated bike local train" simply means that you can only put your bikes on certain trains, which have no special infrastructure or rules for bikes -- and they frequently occur during rush hour. Because so many people enter the Taipei basin by early morning train rides, the TRA situation will have be addressed by a rational policy. Just take the 7:37 express out of Taoyuan -- it is absolutely packed with commuters, yet it is a designated bike train -- the commuters all sit in the "bike car" which is either a dining car or a baggage car with no special adaptations for the needs of bikes. All locals should be bike trains, and designated bike trains should have special hangers and whatnot for bikes. Fortunately, local station managers are frequently relaxed about the rules, especially on the east coast line, mitigating much of the obtuseness.
But above all, the government has to take the view that the bicycle is more than just a trendy recreational vehicle. It needs to truly support bicycle commuting, and build a bicycle culture here.
EVENT: The next big bike ride is over Alishan Nov 24-25, leaving from Taichung. Overnighting in Caoling. Leaving early, climbing up to Fenchihu via the 169, picking up the magnificent 159A in Shijhuo to finish the ride to Chiayi city. Train home from Chiayi.
ADDED: Speaking of communications and traffic, how about this ferry for the Suao-Hualien run? 80 mins back and forth!
- Taiwan's future?: Hong Kongers fed up with Chinese, lack of control over their own fate, identifying more strongly as Hong Kongers than ever before. Still look down on Taiwanese, though. Unfortunately the snobbishness of HKKers prevents them from forming solidarity with the pro-Taiwan side. But I suspect in a couple more years we may see some serious movement in that direction.
- Fengtou Peak Ridge. Great pics.
- The Donggang Boat Burning Festival
- Hilariously, yet not so hilariously, US political attack ad uses PRC flag with Ma Ying-jeou to represent Taiwan
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.