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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Annual Taiwan Bike Festival Wants A "Do-over"


Taiwan's government has announced on their "International Service Portal" that, essentially, the First Annual Taiwan Bike Festival was such a smashing success... they are going to hold the exact same event again next year and have thus announced plans to hold the second First Annual Taiwan Bike Festival in 2011.

You read that correctly. Next year will be considered the "first" one and the 2010 festival is being called a "trial event" that doesn't really count. Sorry attendees. Luckily next year's event will be held in the month of November to coincide with my twelfth 25th birthday.

Among this year's successes that helped the Sports Affairs Council opt for a do-over was the October scheduling, which put the event at the tail end of typhoon season and resulted in several events being cancelled as several of the world's top cyclists waited in their hotels for conditions to clear.

... and there's more...

Here's the whole thing:

"With so-called LOHAS trends and environmentally-friendly ideals sweeping around the world, bicycling is gaining ground on driving to become one of the hottest forms of exercise in the 21st century. In order to promote cycling, the Executive Yuan’s Sports Affairs Council plans to invest NT$4 billion to pave cycling paths around Taiwan. Cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung have been setting up bike-rental services around MRT stations and popular scenic spots since May, 2009 and are encouraging visitors to take full advantage of bikes for city sightseeing.

To meet the goal of transforming Taiwan into a“cycling island”, the Tourism Bureau held a Taiwan Cycling Festival from Oct. 16 to 24 in Hualien and Taitung. As part of this event,internationally-renowned cycling teams were invited to Taiwan to join the “Taiwan Cup” road race. Other highlights included road races for both professional and amateur bicyclists, plus a triathlon, consisting of cycling, running and swimming, which was open to all participants. Thanks to the successful results of this year’s trial event, the Tourism Bureau plans to designate 2011 as the first official year for the Taiwan Cycling Festival, and organize large-scale related events in the second and third weeks of October, 2011. The goal will be to align the race route with bountiful tourism resources and attractions in Hualien and Taitung, enticing more foreign tourists to Taiwan."

The full article is only two paragraphs, but there is a lot to dig into.

I covered just some of it here. I think the article above really helps illustrate some of my points.

The first thing I would like to draw attention to is the extravagant use of the term LOHAS. The term has become a buzzword in Taiwan's domestic marketing with little action to back it up. LOHAS or Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, encourages the wealthier and more educated classes to be willing to spend more on "green" living.

Taiwan's government is clearly focused on pushing cycling touri$m, or rather, Tourism's ability to generate construction and development profits over real lifestyles of sustainability.

The promise of more concrete for bike paths rings empty when riders are asked drive their bikes out to ride them. The claims that Taiwan is becoming "Bicycle Island" sounds like something from Fantasy Island. With the narrow focus on only tourism, Taiwan's cycling infrastructure is like a new subdivision of big, fancy houses that are not hooked up to a sewer line or power grid. We currently have islands of bike trails that connect to nothing and very little investment pointed toward making those connection that might make those systems valuable to society.

They are always eager to throw NT 4 billion into concrete, but can you get there by bus?


2 comments:

  1. Mmm. Gravel interests.

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  2. I disagree with your bike path conclusions, Andrew. As far as I have seen, little concrete is being poured and the $4 billion plan is all about connecting existing routes to create two Cross Island Bike Paths (one coastal and one closer to the mountains). Much of the route takes advantage of existing small lanes, dike walls, etc. I road from Taipei to Shimen Reservoir a few weeks ago all on bike paths (it was great and highly scenic), and two days ago explored parts of the section from Hsinchu HSR back to Shimen Reservoir. While much was on dedicated bike path, some sections were on shared road that see almost no traffic (these sections were well mapped and easy to follow). Instead of spending on concrete, money is being spend landscaping and cleaning up areas, building parks, planting trees, making the occasional bench or rest area, posting km markers and maps, etc. From what I have seen routes are well chosen. The ride from Daxi to Shimen Reservoir, for example, was gorgeous yet a parallel road a few hundred metres away would have made for an awful ride through a lot of typical Taiwan blight.

    I think you should investigate the system a little more before you condemn it. That said, I agree LOHAS is nothing more than a marketing tag.

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