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Saturday, July 9, 2011

An Analysis Of Taiwan's Cycling Infrastructure

A couple weeks ago Taiwan was visited by Jack Becker, a Canadian cycling advocate and director of the 2012 Velo-Cities conference. Mr. Becker presented a paper relating to creating lasting and meaningful infrastructure for cycling. He spent five days in Taiwan feted by local political actors looking for an evaluation of their efforts to transform Taiwan into a "bicycle island".

Becker walked away with a very clear impression: Taiwan can not foster a bicycle friendly environment until action is taken to regularly and evenly enforce traffic laws and to take cycling seriously enough to provide separate space for riders to survive amid chaotic traffic conditions.

Please read his brief evaluation HERE and I would encourage readers to leave a comment.

I think Becker makes some great points about Taiwan's softball approach to cycling infrastructure.

I call it a "softball" approach because rather than addressing real problems with our cycling infrastructure the central and local governments either look for solutions in search of their problems, or initiate a half-baked "solution" that looks good when framed by bullet points in a Power Point presentation, but lack any reasonable followthrough.

Two examples might be the kilometers of leisure trails being constructed that start at and lead to nowhere. In cases like these the proposition is to promote tourism, where there was no real need before (especially now that Chinese tourism has dropped 30% in the past year).

A second example might be the "Bike Trains". They look great on paper and the government can proudly announce an increasing number of these trains. What a bike train means is that a rider may be allowed to bring their bike into a train car, which will be shared with other, non cycling, passengers. There are no racks, there are no hooks or nets or any special devices to make carrying a bike easier. One simply must hold their bike as the car fills with passengers who are annoyed that they have to rest their bags of fruit on your handlebars or get chain grease on their clothes. Michel Turton reported to me that his train car was so full last weekend that one rider had to pass his bike over the heads of passengers packed seven or eight deep into the car. This is hardly a viable solution to encourage riders to use the railway system.

These are just a couple examples, but for a program that has had so much fanfare, there is sure a lack of results in many key areas the government should be focusing on.