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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

Taichung to Lugu (140k)

Sunday seemed like a good day for a ride. Still no word on my camera, so I am stuck with these awful Nokia images.

My plan was pretty simple. I need to put some miles in the legs and I need to build back into climbing.

The best way to do that from Taichung seemed like a little trip up to the tea farming areas around Lugu. Aside from the workout, I felt like getting up there to take a look at the Spring harvest. The Spring teas should be ready by the end of May and many of the lower elevation teas are already being rolled.

I love spinning along through some of the small villages in the area when the air is filled with the smell of freshly processed tea.

I had the most inauspicious start to my ride with a piece of tissue paper flying up off the road and into my rear derailleur. After picking the pieces out and getting things back to normal, I sluggishly took the Highway 3 out of Taichung toward Nantou.

Just between Nantou city and Mingjian I came upon the scene of an ambulance carting off a fellow rider. He seemed pretty banged up, but not in serious condition. His teammates ambled idly by over the demolished Bianchi frame, which sat in three pieces, held together by the brake cables.

It appears he may have swerved into the path of a passing scooter.

I normally don't take pictures of wrecks, but I thought I would just post a reminder that this could be any one of us on any given ride. Ride safe and be careful.

I took the bridge at Jiji over the river to the Nantou Route 131. This is a nicer way to bike up to Lugu. The grades are not as severe or as crowded as the larger Route 151, and there are plenty of pleasant scenic surprises.

As I reached the Route 151, I decided to simply cross the canyon to Hsiao Ban Tian, which is another tea producing area near Lugu. I really saw no point in continuing up to Sanlinxi in weather that looked just shy of rain.

I thought I would swing through Hsiao Ban Tian and see how the tea harvest a was doing. A few farmers seemed to be getting ready for the big Nantou tea competition, which is abut a month away.

The town was mostly still asleep. I continued off the hill on the exciting Route 55 and made some good time on the Highway 3 back home.

Just after Nantou, I decided to get off the three and hook up to the Highway 14 on the opposite side of the Wu River. As I exited I passed a wedding banquet that was being held in the space under the viaduct.

My legs felt pretty good all the way back and I kept the speed up so I could get home early and see my daughter.

I was home just after 1:00pm... with plenty of time for play and then a trip to Caffe Terry for a beer and the Amstel Gold Race.

Nice day!