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Friday, April 20, 2012

Polar Opposites: Taipei Urged To Follow Kaohsiung's Lead In Bike Rentals

In the wake of a crumbling urban bike "plan", KMT City Councilor, Lee Yen-shiu is urging Taipei to take a more proactive approach to integrating the bicycle into the urban grid by following Kaoshiung's lead in offering an extensive bike rental program.

Taipei City has set up 11 public bicycle rental sites in Xinyi District (信義) since launching the program in 2009, providing 500 bicycles for rent near MRT metropolitan rail stations in the district, including Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station and Taipei City Hall Station.

According to the city’s Department of Transportation, an average of 23 people a day use the system. The department has budgeted NT$14 million (US$ 470,000) a year to manage the program, and incurred a loss of more than NT$10 million since its launch.

KMT Taipei City Councilor Lee Yen-shiu (李彥秀) said the department has failed to promote the program by limiting it to the Xinyi District. She called for the number of rental sites to be expanded to 12 districts and for a friendlier environment to be created for cyclists.

“Public bicycles should not only be used for recreational purposes, but as a short-distance commuting tool. With rental sites only in Xinyi, it’s difficult for more residents to take advantage of the service,” she said.

In Greater Kaohsiung, which also launched its bike program in 2009, there are 49 rental sites around the city, with 800 bicycles available, she said, adding that the number of residents using it has reached 1,300 per day.

It is refreshing to finally see some growing criticism on how the government is choosing to craft cycling policy. Now if only someone would commit to giving cyclists space to safely ride.