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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Taiwan's Commuting Conundrum: Has Someone Finally Noticed? (Updated)

The Taipei Times published an article today concerning the influx of commuters in the wake of rising energy costs, and more importantly on the problems that still face Taiwanese commuters despite the NT$870 million allocated for bicycle infrastructure in 2011.
Some netizens scoffed at the idea, saying that the government was unfriendly to bikers and that saving NT$60 per day on fuel while spending more on lunch was not a good tradeoff. However, netizens who have already begun to commute to work by bike said they enjoyed the health benefits.
The article points to some companies that have taken the initiative by providing facilities for cyclists. Rather than paving more leisure trails for visitors and tourists, the government might want to allocate part of the budget for offering to subsidize the installation of facilities that promote cycling to work.

One anonymous staff member at an e-commerce firm said his company encouraged its employees to bike to work, adding that it had set up shower stalls equipped with free toiletries and hair dryers.

Taiwan Cyclist Federation director Tien Yi-sheng (田沂生) said that safety was still the most important concern for bicycle commuters.

“We still need more systems that are biker-friendly in Taiwan,” Tien said, adding that in Denmark and the Netherlands 30 percent of the workforce commutes by bicycle.

This is really the crux of the issue. Taiwan's streets are still too dangerous for most cyclists to want to navigate on a regular basis. To make the sweeping changes necessary to make cycling a safe and effective alternative to the automobile, someone is going to have to start making some politically unpopular decisions.


An editorial in the Taipei Times echoes many of my sentiments. Read It HERE


  1. I don't know if it would be helpful in Taiwan, but for me, at least, what got me into commuting was my folding bike. There are parts of my route that are too dangerous to ride (like the highway), so I take the bus for that part, and then once I'm closer to work and on quieter roads, I unfold my bike and ride. Way cheaper than driving.

  2. There are lots of folding bikes in Taiwan. They are pretty popular as far as commuters go.

    The biggest drawbacks are:

    1) Dangerous and unregulated traffic (Lack of road space).
    2) Lack of safe storage space.
    3) Too many confusing bike rules for mass transit vehicles.

    I was actually really impressed with the Tern and Biologic brands. I thought their products and product ecosystem would work well... as long as people can feel safe riding and parking in Taiwan's cities.

  3. What really needs to change is the government's (and people's) car first attitude. In a city with streets as narrow as Taipei's, or indeed any Taiwanese city, the only way safe biking and walking space can be created is eliminating parking or car lanes, or enforcing very low speed limits. I think it's definitely worth it- cities as dense as Taiwan's are very poorly suited to driving, because they have little space for parking- but it will be politically very, very difficult. Providing money is the easy part.

  4. I agree. Taiwan has so much going for it to become a world leader in green living. Sadly, like casinos, the investment for cycling is in short term profits and gains.

    Taiwan's population density and urban lifestyle are perfect for cycling to become a staple of the transportation network. Almost everything a family needs is within walking or cycling distance.

    Unless, of course, housing prices continue rising in the face of stagflation and people are pushed further and further from their jobs. *sigh!*

  5. And I start to dream. Imagine...

    The Taiwanese are masters of burrowing with all their tunnels through mountains. Now imagine a non-stop bicycle expressway through a city like Taipei, where the path just dips underground through the intersection and shoots you out the other end. Bicycles would no longer be waiting at the long red lights, but free to flow safely through to the other side without losing any momentum besides the climb out the other end (which reminds me of a tunnel experiment where strong fans were used to coast riders through the tunnel).

    If tunneling is not okay, then build some over head bridges, with similar effect.

    But first (and easier, maybe)... make the lazy-boned cops start fining people for illegal parking and driving like a bunch of loons.

  6. It's great that Tien brings up Holland and Denmark as examples, but those places have something that Taiwan will never have-- a general consensus on the need for dedicated bike paths (at least 3 meters away from the road) which may not be used for motorized vehicles of any kind. Also, you get scolded immediately if you walk, drive or park in their on-street bike lanes!

    Another huge cultural difference is that there is no stigma attached to using a bicycle for daily transportation in those countries.

    The managerial class in Taiwan has allowed recreational weekend biking to become a legitimate way to spend time and money.

    When they begin bragging about how many km they clock each week commuting to the office (and not just their round-the-island holiday treks), THEN you will see some real progress like convenient and safe parking spaces for bikes, showers, etc.

  7. Promoting safer and more accessible cycling lanes all over the world is definitely in order.