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Friday, April 9, 2010

Taiwan Review on Taiwan's Future in Cycles

The Taiwan Review has a lengthy article, full of propaganda puff from the Government Information Office, about the government's plans to integrate cycling into the transportation matrix.
In July 2009 and January this year, Lin was among the government officials and experts who reported to Republic of China (ROC) President Ma Ying-jeou in the presidential office about the establishment of biking path networks around Taiwan. In response to these opinion leaders and given the increasing popularity of biking activities, the president called for policies and regulations specifically covering bicycles, as well as the integration of bicycles with other mainstream means of transportation.
The word "Taiwan" doesn't appear until the third paragraph... just sayin'
Lin points out that, in contrast to the strong commitment to biking seen in some foreign cities such as London and Paris, however, cycling has been promoted in Taiwan at the central government level, with the result that resources have been spread somewhat sparsely across the country...
I blogged about this earlier, contrasting Taiwan's dislocated and inefficient system with the Seattle Master Plan.
Although the MOTC is moving to take the lead for national biking policy, projects to develop local bike paths continue to be financed by the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency (CPA) and the Cabinet-level Sports Affairs Council (SAC). According to a construction plan by the SAC, a budget of NT$4 billion (US$125 million) will be devoted to the development of an integrated network of biking paths around Taiwan from 2009 to 2012, continuing similar efforts started by the council in the early 2000s for sport and recreational purposes.
You can see by the alphabet soup above, how bureaucratic divisions, budget rivalries and lack of cross-agency communication can impede the process of integrating cycling into the transportation grid. To expand on the paragraph above, it is obvious that cycling in Taiwanese officialdom is neither transportation nor a sport.
Despite the great controversy and initial complaints from car drivers and motorcyclists about designated biking lanes on Dunhua Road in Taipei City, Liu says the city government will stick to its program to develop and maintain a network of bike paths in downtown Taipei. As for the quieter areas in local communities, which Liu notes are already a favorable environment for cycling, speed limits for motorized vehicles will be reduced to ensure a more carefree, safer ride.
This disaster has been criticized repeatedly for its deeply flawed conception, construction and effectiveness. Rather than add another transportation debacle to the growing list compiled by the Ma/Hao Mayoral administrations in Taipei, the city government will do what it does best---nothing.

While the Urban Road Act has yet to include bicycles explicitly, as some critics and activists call for, the Legislative Yuan did pass an amendment to the Highway Law toward the end of 2007 allowing for specific lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians on existing roads or alternative routes. Generally speaking, bicyclists are supposed to travel in the slow traffic lane—the lane nearest the side of the road—but sometimes they forget that they are more vulnerable than motorcyclists and car drivers, leading to quite a few traffic accidents, says the MOTC’s Lin Kuo-shian. “More often than not, bicyclists are unclear about whether they’re using a ‘vehicle’ or are just a faster moving pedestrian,” he says.

Despite the high election year talk, cyclists are still largely off the radar and weren't even included in the URA. What gets me about this paragraph is the "blame the cyclist" approach. I have blogged on traffic safety before, and the overwhelming factor in Taiwan's dangerous streets is the lack of willing enforcement. If traffic enforcement is regular, fair and consistent, the drivers learn to expect it and drive accordingly. I know this. In college I was a parking officer. It works.

Taiwan's Muddled Message: Around The World In 30 Months

Taiwanese Couple Cycles The World for Taiwan... er... ROC... er... Whatever We Are...

This article from Taiwan Focus er... focuses on a Taiwanese couple hoping to cycle the globe to raise awareness for cycling, for the environment, for Taiwanese products and for their home. I hate to be such a cynic, and with a focus that narrow how could one go wrong?

Let's have a look shall we.
Taoyuan, Taiwan April 7 (CNA) A Taiwanese couple are embarking on a cycling trip that would take them to four continents in 30 months to promote the centenary of the Republic of China (Taiwan), as well as environmental awareness awareness and Taiwanese products.
Due to competing histories, ideologies and political interests, it is not uncommon to find that Taiwanese are often confused or unsure how to represent Taiwan in an international setting. This is made even more difficult by an education system that is still leveraged to promote Chinese nationalist ideology and Chinese nationalist culturalism. The incongruity between the Taiwanese experience, state constructed histories, and an official policy of national ambiguity, sews confusion both at home and abroad during international exhibitions and cultural exchange programs. This was highly evident during the recent World Games in Kaohsiung, which promoted a simple Taiwan centered message and the Deaf Olympics in Taipei that opted to tone down Taiwan in favor of an ambiguous Chinese Taipei and confused references to China, Chinese and Taiwan. Many Taiwanese will get confused when I talk about how "we" fought "you" during WWII. Taiwanese history is actually taught from an R.O.C. perspective that is divergent from a Taiwan centered perspective. This type of myth making is commonplace amid governments and civilizers that still seek legitimacy amid an ongoing "civilizing" program. It is no mistake that the constitutional role of education in Taiwan is to create a "national outlook". This colonial approach was confirmed by the education reforms of 1953 that sought to transform Taiwanese into Chinese. Many of the references we hear to "Chinese" this or that... are deliberate and are the result of directives issued by the Government Information Office.

The article continues:
He thought the year 2010 would be a good time to make the trip because preparations are beginning this year to celebrate the ROC's centenary next year and cycling is a good way to promote awareness of climate change and alternative energy.

Yen and Lin said they
would like to dedicate the trip to the Republic of China (Taiwan) , which was established in 1911, as a birthday present to the country.
In my experience I have never met a cyclist in Taiwan who did not identify with Taiwan as their country and their land. With this much beauty it is an easy place to feel attached to. Most cyclists and most people for that matter, never refer to the ROC. I haven't heard it spoken by a non-political Taiwanese in a very long time. The Taiwanese identity is actually very deep as it accurately reflects what people really feel. So, as I read through this article I couldn't help but think, "something doesn't feel right."


With a budget of around NT$2 million (approximately US$63,400) , Lin said, the trip would not be possible without the sponsorship of several local bicycle companies, which provided them with bicycles priced at NT$200,000 each, and the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which asked Taiwan's foreign offices to provide help.

Aha! Either this couple is going to whore themselves out to MOFA in exchange for a free trip, or, and I hope this is the case, they are going to nod their heads, agree to the terms of their propaganda tour, take the money and use their trip to have a wild time promoting Taiwan around the world as "Taiwan". If this is the case I hope they pull it off. With so many masters it will not be easy. Lesson #1 for getting sponsorship: By hook or by crook.

I found this quote encouraging:
A certified historical sites guide in Taiwan, Lin said he believes that he will be able to share Taiwan's stories with foreigners and "show Taiwan to the world" during his trip.
Don't forget the shout out to the sponsor!
"And about 90 percent of our equipment are Taiwan-made. We would like to tell people these products are very well-made in Taiwan, " he said.
Update: Here is an alternative article by the Taiwan-centered Liberty Times.