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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Connecting The Dots: Taipei Completes Major Bike Project

Taipei Urban Bike Path (Green)

The Taipei Times is reporting that Taipei has just completed the Jingmei section of bike trails to finally connect 111km of trails around the city. This is an admirable achievement by any measure as it works to create and expand the available space allocated for cycling, but I would temper my enthusiasm in light of how other global metropoles have better allocated their financial resources to integrate cycling into the urban environment.

With the completion of the 1km bike trail on the right bank of the Jingmei River in front of Shih Hsin University, cyclists can take a ride along the Tamsui, Keelung, Xindian and Jingmei rivers that connect the Muzha (木柵), Neihu (內湖) and Beitou (北投) areas.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) joined hundreds of cyclists yesterday morning at Jinmei Bridge to celebrate the completion of the “last mile” of the city’s riverside bicycle trails, and promised to keep the trails safe and eco-friendly for city residents.

“After we complete the last mile of the trails, city residents can take a ride from Taipei Zoo to Tamsui, or to Bitan Lake in Xindian without having to compete for space with cars and scooters. Riverside parks and recreational areas are also more approachable,” he said.

It is clear that, despite the "green" label, the concept behind the NT 1.86 billion dollars spent on bicycle transportation grids is almost completely fixated on sports and leisure, and divorced from the idea of the bicycle as an alternative form of urban transportation. Taipei's bicycle infrastructure is entirely focused on traversing Taipei's different outlying tourism areas.

In related news, the Council for Economic Planning and Development said yesterday that with the cycling craze continuing unabated, Taiwan has already built 1,323km of bike paths and has connected all the paths in the northern region.

The council estimated this total would increase to 3,823km of paths by 2012.

The council said it started to plan for a bicycle path network in 2002 with the aim of building a healthy and superior sports and leisure environment. The council invested NT$1.86 billion (US$63.2 million) on the planning and construction of the bike paths.

I have previously drawn comparisons to other major metropoles and their bicycle plans, and I have speculated on who benefits from the drive for more tourism and tourism infrastructure.

Michael Turton from The View From Taiwan provides an excellent and timely commentary on ECFA and the recent importance of tourism to offset Taiwan's choice to forfeit its most competitive industries. The bicycle is set to play a major role in expanding Taiwan's future as a tourism and entertainment provider.

With so many of these projects funded by the taxpayer; projects which will eventually benefit big business, politicians and those who feed off politicians (someone's big brother), there is surely a need for cyclists to take a closer, and more critical look at these projects, their aims and also their liabilities. Bike are fun, but they are also big business and big politics. I hope Taiwan's riders are paying close attention.

Can there be better, more effective ways to spend tax dollars that can benefit more people and actually contribute to reducing pollution? Is big business too involved in driving these projects that use public funding? Who are the biggest beneficiaries of these projects?

Food for thought.


  1. Andrew, I think it is all well and good to paint the green bike paths. But, someone needs to tell the Taiwan drivers. I mean look at the pic, just made and already ignored by taxi, bus and whoever else feels like they want to drive there. In a word Pointless!!

  2. I bet none of the money ever spent to educate Taiwan drivers to respect cyclists' right!

  3. Right! The only reason traffic is a problem, is that it is allowed to be a problem.