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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bikes Are Fun... and More. Incorporating the Bike Into Our Lives

I have been told a few times to quit over thinking the bike. "Bikes are fun".

This is true... Bikes are fun! But I think if we simply focus on one single aspect of riding a bicycle, in this case "fun", we lose track of so many of the other opportunities and challenges bicycles provide.

Yes, bicycles are fun. They are also a multi-billion dollar industry. They are tools. They are recreational. They are utilitarian and political in how they are used by political actors and activists to promote change. Bicycles, at their most basic, allow for all types of physical and social mobility to occur. They are transformative.

Bikes can be a lot of things.

In Taiwan we have seen private companies and the government put a growing focus on recreation and leisure, which is fine, but it is often at the expense of all the other qualities a bicycle can provide. I have seen a growing emphasis on leisure over transportation infrastructure. There is money to be made in leisure and tourism... and so I can understand why there is such an emphasis on simply recreation.

Luckily, some urban areas like Kaohsiung are working hard to ensure the bike can become more than just a toy for use in "other" places. Bicycles need to be localized and incorporated into a part of the transportation grid and as a way of life. This can not happen without metropoles that are willing to facilitate the bike and make space for its use, and bike companies willing to produce bikes for the way people live. This is where we need to see greater commitment.

Then I come across this.

Here is an excellent piece from The City Fix on what Kaohsiung has been up to.

In a country where there is nearly one motorbike for every two people, Kaohsiung has 766 motorbikes for every 1,000 city residents. To get citizens off their motorcycles and scooters, Kaohsiung instituted Taiwan’s first urban bicycle rental program. Kaohsiung’s City Public Bike (C-Bike) program includes 4,500 bikes at 50 rental locations. Bike rentals through the program aren’t free, but the government offers subsidies to encourage citizens to use the city’s more than 150 kilometers of bike paths (the first-of-their-kind in Taiwan.) Kaohsiung’s efforts have led CNN to name it the third most bike-friendly city in Asia.

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