body{background-attachment: fixed ! important; }

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Elephant In The Room: Growing Criticism Over Taiwan's Corporate Model For Cycling Infrastructure


Taiwan Insights has an excellent article examining the trouble Taiwan, and Taipei especially, is having with integrating its leisure and utility cycling infrastructure to promote cycling as a viable mode of transportation. 

The article points to several of the causes this blogger has identified (here and here), namely that the bicycle infrastructure model adopted by Taipei and the central government is driven by the interests of large corporations whose main commitment is to their board and shareholders rather than the interest of public good. 

This model leads to an ultimate conflict of interest and misguided policy. Just look at how the government effectively relied on corporate advisors to solve the problem of cars crashing into cyclists

The article states:

With two leading bicycle manufacturing companies on Taiwan, the island is known as the “bicycle kingdom.” Nevertheless, despite Giant and Merida’s presence, it is very difficult to commute by bike in Taiwan’s cities. Taipei City Councilman Chen Yan-bo pointed out, “Frankly speaking, Taipei has yet to provide an environment for cyclists to bike to work.” However, municipalities, non-profits and Taiwan’s bike manufacturers are working hard to make its cities more bike-friendly. 
Lin Yin-hong, the author of A Bike City, is a well-known cyclist and writer in Taiwan. He used to cycle to school daily as he pursued his PhD in Germany. But, upon returning to Taiwan he put his bike into storage, saying “All Taipei residents know how difficult it is to commute to work by bike.”

The article goes on to contrast the bike schemes developed by both Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan's two largest metropoles. This is the second time this year a ruling party politician has come out against the government's efforts to expand the cycling plan to include commuters. 

Both the southern city of Kaohsiung and the capital Taipei unveiled public commuter bike rental schemes in 2009 in the hope of creating “Bike Cities.” The public bike rental system called “YouBike,” is sponsored by the Transportation Department of the Taipei City Government in partnership with Giant to provide 500 rental bikes at 11 locations in Taipei’s Xinyi District, the city’s most vibrant commercial area. 
Commonwealth reported that the rental usage of the YouBike has been underwhelming since its founding three years ago. For example, average daily rental numbers were only 178 bicycles from January to August last year, which means 64 percent of the bikes were not in use.
As long as Taiwan's roads remain largely unregulated and laws unenforced, there is no reason for Taiwanese to hop on bikes to commute. 

But either way this is a boon for Giant as they have already procured the meaty government contract with the Taipei government pledging to throw more taxpayer's money at a problem that Giant will undoubtedly be happy to help them fix. 
Commonwealth reported that the Taipei City Government announced in July that it was going to invest NT$228 million (US$7.6 million) to turn YouBike around with the expectancy of expanding to nine areas in Taipei City, adding 5,000 bikes and an extra 162 rental stations over three years. The main goal is to help Taipei reduce its 5,021 metric tons of carbon emissions by 2018. 
However, Councilman Chen is worried that this new investment is too much of a gamble. Lin concurs, “Who will spend money on bike rental? Even those who are Taipei residents owning bikes do not commute by bike.”
The article concludes with a very poignant and obvious observation:
"It seems that Taiwan is doing things backwards by building a public bike system first before improving the traffic environment. It is also very difficult to allocate new bike lanes on existing city roads. The only way for Taiwan to build a bicycle-friendly traffic environment is through legislation and educational advocacy to promote shared traffic rights for pedestrians, motorists, motorcyclists, and cyclists..."

Pretty bold for a blog run by the Government Information Office.


  • Oh my! My friend and former co-worker, Albert Chen, has arrived in Belgium on one of the final legs of his cycling mission. Yes, Mormons are not the only missionaries to travel by bike. Albert, a devout Catholic and avid cyclist, has taken it upon himself to cycle the world in the hopes of sharing the world vision of the Holy See. Although I do not agree with the idea of missionary work, I wish him a safe journey. We had spent quite a lot of time discussing cycling routes and Albert was very keen on pedaling through some places that are often not entirely friendly to the Christian cause. I am happy he has arrived in Europe safely. Like a two wheeled Godfrey de Bouillion, Albert's next stop... Israel. 

Racing the Rainclouds: Unfinished Business on Route 136


My health and fitness is coming back and I am gradually edging toward the form I was in last year before my injury. I had almost a week off the bike due to scheduling and weather, so I was rested enough to try the loop between the Taichung Route 129 and the venerable 136. If I am going to hurt myself, this is the route I seem to do it on. 


I had planned to take off at 6:00am, but with a baby that didn't want to go to bed, it was more like 8:00am that I finally put the wheels on the road. I saw the beautiful sunshine out my window and, in the drunkenness of sleep, thought to myself that it would be a beautiful day, so I needn't worry about the weather. 

I had just sent my bike to the shop to have all the bearings re-greased and everything washed up after my misadventures in the mud. The bike was just rolling smooth as could be. I climbed the Dongshan Rd. (Rte. 129) with much less effort than last time, testing smaller and smaller cogs.  


With the bike's smoothness and my own fitness, I was almost bored with the ease I was feeling. I stopped once for a coffee and once to stretch my legs before the climbing to avoid another injury. 


Once the climbing commenced, I surprised myself with my smooth, even cadence and steady speed. Just as I started up Baimao Shan on the Highway 21, I smashed headlong into a mass of cool air. At first it was a refreshing respite from the mid-morning humidity. Then I saw the dark clouds leading an advancing system of rain. 


As I looked out over the valley, I wondered how my friend Dom was faring on his climb up Da Xue Shan. From the looks of things the route was soon to be swallowed up by the gloom. 


I silently cursed my decision to reset my alarm and made hay for the 136 with vivid memories of getting stuck near the top during a violent rain shower. I would do it and accept the consequences. 

Luckily, it looked as if the area near the Route 136 was enjoying some clear skies. I tried to make time over a line of cars off the mountain, but as a sprinkle of rain slapped across my nose, I was locked behind a caravan of vehicles too fast to pass and too slow to keep me from riding the brakes. 


I had made it out to Guoxing and toward the Hi Life at the base of the Route 136. 

As I was descending, I noticed my shifting was getting sloppy. I would downshift and nothing would happen It would take a couple tries to shift the chain to a new cog. The chain would jump cogs and I noticed I was spinning out with two unused cogs at the end of the cassette. I used to experience this all the time with my Shimano Ultegra, but with Campy it was an entirely new experience. I kept wondering why my gear was behaving like Shimano. I fiddled with the barrel adjusters as well as I could, which seemed to work for a couple minutes. I figured I would do my best to get over the 136 with sloppy shifting and have it looked at when I got back to Taichung. 

I never had the chance. As I attacked the lower reaches of the 136, I tried to snap into an easier gear, and instead, the chain slid on down the line to the smallest cog... and stayed there. 

I noticed the derailleur cable looked a little loose, so I took out my multitool and attempted to pull it a bit tighter. I pulled and pulled and pulled as I was presented with more and more cable. 

The cable had snapped up near the shifter. 

It was time to call for a rescue and put this ride on the list of unfinished business.