A bike ride and protest (422 單車上路 爭路權) was held in Taipei today to coincide with Earth Day. It was organised by the Taiwan Green Party (台灣綠黨) with assistance from the Big Apple Cycling Team (大蘋果車隊). The reason for organising the ride was to protest the law which doesn't recognise bicycles as vehicles. The Taipei Times had an article yesterday detailing the issues. The following quote is from the Green Party website:
The March is intended to ask Taipei City Government for dedicated bike lanes, as well as for reform of the Public Road Law to include bicycles as a “traffic vehicle.” The changes would mandate that the Taiwanese government needs to consider bicyclists in road and city planning. Presently, bicycles are not considered “traffic vehicles” and so Taiwanese road design rarely take bicycles into account. The March is also intended as a protest against plans for Taipei City to ban bicycles from major roadways.
Several other issues were raised by different speakers at the event including the lack of on road bike paths, the many restrictions about taking bicycles on the MRT and the lack of good parking facilities for bikes. I have previously discussed some of these and other issues on this blog.
Canadian musician Matthew Lien was a participant in the event and he made a short speech at the start and finish of the ride. I spoke to Matthew after the ride and he said he rides his bike around Taipei. Last month he had a letter in the Taipei Times discussing the very issues that the ride was about.
I was given this sign by someone from the Green Party and attached it to my handlebars. Translated into English it reads, "Taiwan has about 23 million people, 6 million cars, 12 million motorcycles and 1.14 million bicycles." I am not sure where the statistics came from but the number of bicycles is surprisingly low.
The ride began at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and took a circuitous route through Taipei. I am not sure of the exact number of participants in the event. I think it would have probably been around 300 people.
When I lived in Australia I regularly participated in Critical Mass and I hoped some of that spirit might be captured during today's ride. However, cyclists became strung out along the road and separated into several groups. I don't mean to criticise the organisers or the police though. They both did a good job. It is just that these events don't happen very often and there is not enough "bicycle culture" developed to make them run more smoothly.
Here the ride is passing NTU (台大). I think this area must have the highest density of bicycles anywhere in Taiwan. The footpaths are filled to near overflowing with bikes.
The bike ride passed the Presidential Building. I wonder if anyone asked A-bian to join the ride?
The event finished at the Outdoor Cinema Park in Ximending where they were going to screen the film, The Road in the Air (單車上路), which I saw last year. The Director of the film Li Zhi-qiang (李志薔) spoke briefly about his reasons for making the film. The main one was as a form of opposition to the proposed Suhua Freeway.
Overall the event shows that there are some people who are passionate and care about cycling and the environment in Taiwan. However, there is a lot to accomplish before cyclists truly enjoy their rights on the roads in Taipei and Taiwan.
# 5 May is Bicycle Day with events in Taipei City and Taipei County. More details in the events calendar at Taiwanderful. A movie about cycling around Taiwan called Island Etude (練習曲) will be released on 27 April. More details at the the movie's blog.
Update: The China Post has an article reporting on the ride. (added 23 April 2007)