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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Delusions of Grandeur: Mayor Jason Hu Lauds Taichung's Bike Lanes

Taichung Mayor, Jason Hu, opened the Taichung leg of the Tour of Formosa with a speech in which he declared the city's bike lanes to be among the nation's best. Oddly omitted from the speech at the last minute were references to unicorns, flying livestock, staged moon landings, Obama's birth certificate and the notion that the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Cubs always have next year.

Press Release (Translation):
"On the 4th, the cyclists came to Taichung City Fulfillment Amphitheatre to start their next challenge. Jason Hu gave awards to the top three cyclists from the last stage. He spoke through the translator for the cyclits, stating  that Taichung has the best bike lanes. The scenery is gorgeous, including lakes and hill climbs. He welcomes the cyclists to experience the beauty of Taiwan." 
Here are some examples of the "best bike lanes".
The Brick-Zag (Nantun)

The Parking Strip (Daya)

The Sidewalk (Chingshui)

The Bricks To Nowhere (Shalu)

Narrow To Nowhere (Taichung Port)

Hou-Feng hype (Fengyuan/Houli)

The Scooter Lane (Dakeng)

Image 7
Largesse (Daya)


  1. In my neighborhood and old lady was killed (run over) on her bicycle when maneuvering around cars parked as in your picture of the Daya parking strip. She was hit by an 18-wheeler that was also passing the cars.

    The sickening thing is that the cops were heavy handed for a week or so on illegal parking and now that street is lined with cars again.

    That even one person has to die for others convenience in picking up their lunch is unacceptable.

    PS. It was a motorbike lane in the old lady's case and not a bicycle-only lane. But still not a place to park cars.

  2. "That even one person has to die for others convenience..."

    Although traffic fatalities are sorrowfully all too common, they are not inevitable. Nobody "has to" die. My reading is that the most common proximate cause of traffic accidents is human error (not anti-cyclist malfeasance, nor lax enforcement of laws etc...); and human error can in theory be corrected or minimized with a little bit of applied intelligence.

    How many people who have died on Taiwan's roads would still be alive today if either they themselves or the person who ran them over had had their wits about them a bit more?

    1. Thanks for those comments Mike. Having your wits about you is certainly essential as it stands now.

      I live in a small town with quite a high proportion of old folks. Many of them don't have their wits about them when they ride their bicycles of scooters around town. Nevertheless, they still just need to get around. And the roads are for just that.

      The roads are designed to accommodate them with a wide margin shared with scooters. The reason is to protect them from cars and bigger vehicles. That's how it was designed. In fact a very high proportion of the main roads in my town have motorbike lanes which act as a wide margin.

      This old lady was riding on the road, in a spot designed for her safety but she had to venture into the path of bigger vehicles because of another person's crass disregard for the law.

      Having your wits about you is not an adequate answer for a broken system with cops who did almost nothing to protect and serve apart from protecting their own interests and serving tea. And not enforcing the rights of the people.

      She was just trying to get somewhere. Someone thought "I'll just pop in for some lunch quickly. No one will mind if I park in the way." and a few minutes later, an old lady pays for his lunch with her life.

      That's cruel and irresponsible.

      In summary, I totally agree with you about having your wits about you. I would say this is why I've had so many years of accident-free riding, because I never let my guard down and prepare for those idiots who I know are out there.

      The answer for now is to be vigilant. But the bigger answer is to educate the young on how to be safe on the road. Then start cutting out the chabuduo bullshit with enforcement of traffic safety and rules.

  3. Regarding enforcement:

    When I was in college I was dirt poor. I paid for tuition between emergency loans. My part time job to pay rent and pay back my loans within a semester was working as a Paring Enforcement Officer.

    My job was to sell parking tickets (USD$1.00 per 24hr day) and to ticket those vehicles without a parking pass, illegally parked or overtime. Vehicles with 8 or more outstanding tickets were towed or wheel-locked.

    My supervisor was a retired green beret from the early days of Vietnam, before the US was officially IN Vietnam. The best supervisor ever.

    When I started, like a good soldier, I simply followed orders. The job was simple and I went out and issued 24 tickets my first night.

    On my second and third nights I racked up over 40 tickets.

    My employers pulled me aside to be sure I was doing my job correctly and we determined that I was, and so I was told to, "bring the hammer down."

    The numbers of tickets continued to increase as I learned how to manage the parking lots and save time by recognizing familiar cars as opposed to new ones. I spent three months issuing over 60 tickets per night.

    There was an uproar in the parking office and I was frequently being cited as "overly aggressive". I have never seen anything so strange as Americans and their attachment to their cars. I was called every name in the book. I was hated. I was called a Nazi. I saw some really fucked up shit when people see their cars were locked down.

    It created quite a problem for the Police and Parking Office as they sought to be both friendly to the community and also enforce policy. My supervisor stood behind me the entire way and won the argument about continuity of enforcement. After about 6-8 months of heavy ticketing the number of tickets and scofflaws started to decrease. By the time I left, I was lucky to give out 20 tickets per night. People were friendly and accepting of the notion that driving was a privilege, parking was cheap and there was a great bus service.

    The moral of the story is that change will only occur with regular, fair, continuous and predictable enforcement of the laws. This does not describe the present state of Taiwan law enforcement.

  4. "Having your wits about you is not an adequate answer for a broken system..."

    Perhaps, but what is the standard against which "adequate" is to be judged?

    Much stricter enforcement of the traffic rules will come with costs attached, some of which will not be obvious at first, and then there is good reason to be doubtful that stricter enforcement will be an "adequate" solution (Taiwan is not Scandinavia). Consider...

    Most importantly, there are limits to how much of the problem can be captured merely by law enforcement, however strict. Whilst it is simple to issue tickets to people who run red lights at major intersections (assuming they are still alive), it is close to impossible to issue tickets to people who fail to check their mirrors or indicate adequately before pulling out, or making a turn. To even begin to think about accomplishing this, you would need an horrendously impractical degree of camera surveillance, which, aside from the financial cost, is undesireable on civil liberties grounds. And that's just for the inner city areas.

    So, whilst stricter law enforcement may alter some driving behaviours over time, particularly those where the nature of the decision is clear and binary (e.g. running a red light vs not running a red light; parking in a no-parking are, vs not parking in a no-parking area), it isn't going to alter the "tunnel-vision" psychology of Taiwanese drivers in which situational ignorance seems to be a deliberate modus operandi which contributes to the frequency of traffic accidents.

    A second argument against the "adequacy" of stricter law enforcement: such enforcement must be applied equally and consistently if it is not to inspire fear, loathing and resentment of the police and judicial services and the ... for want of a more neutral term... "ruling class". Remember, in Taiwan, such notions as "equality under the law" do not have the same weight of history and (imperfect) practice behind them as they do in, say Germany. Corruption, on the other hand, has a much greater historical weight. So it is quite likely, in my opinion, that any attempt at strict enforcement of the traffic rules will be subverted at various points by fatigue and corruption, with serious consequences for the culture further down the road. "Respect" for law in general is not only a function of punishment, but also of the number and scope of the laws; the more there are and the wider their scope, the less respect for the law people will have.

    Now, it may be true that stricter enforcement of the traffic laws will result in some reduction in traffic accidents and/or traffic fatalities, but as I hope to have indicated, there is ample reason to be skeptical about the size of this reduction, and also ample reason to be worried about the costs of stricter enforcement. With that in mind, I much prefer a "soft-power" approach of education, training and other voluntary means to both persuade people to become better drivers and to dissuade people from driving recklessly (or parking illegally).