Paris and Taipei cycling experience

Paris, Taipei: Bicycles Forever (巴黎.台北 單車萬歲) is a documentary directed by Jean-Robert Thomann (尚若白). It looks at the experience of bicycle commuters in Paris and Taipei. I went to the premiere screening at Eslite Dunnan Bookstore today and it will screen on PTS (公視) tomorrow.

The documentary explores the attitudes of those who have chosen to use a bicycle as their primary form of transport. It looks at both the positives and negatives of this lifestyle choice. The people featured are quite a diverse group. I thought the most interesting one was a woman who uses a bicycle to send her two children to school. If only more people in Taipei would follow her example.

The documentary also considers the development of bicycle paths and bike sharing systems. Taipei’s U-bike system obviously lags a long way behind Paris’s Velib system. It shows that while there have been some improvements in Taipei, the city still has a long way to go before it provides a friendly environment for bicycle commuters.

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Car free Xinyi and underground Songshan

Songzhi Road on Car Free Day in Taipei City

Following the bike ride yesterday there were more activities in Taipei City today to mark Car Free Day (無車日). Passengers travelling on buses to the Xinyi Special District were given free rides if they used an Easy Card (悠遊卡). The streets around Taipei City Hall were closed to traffic, although buses were still permitted. The car free streets seemed like a bit of a pointless exercise. Police were busy directing traffic while the streets were empty. There really needed to be some sort of activity organised to get people on the streets to make the exercise worthwhile. Continue reading

Riding the Kaohsiung MRT

train on the Kaohsiung MRT station

On my visit to Kaohsiung I was keen to check out the Kaohsiung MRT system. The red line (north-south) officially opened in March this year and the orange line (east-west) is scheduled to open next month. They were still busy doing work around the entrances of the orange line stations, so I am not sure whether the work is on schedule.

usual card - stored value card for the Kaohsiung MRT system

A stored value card called a puka (普卡), translated as “usual”  in English, can be used on the MRT and Kaohsiung’s bus system. Tokens for a single trip can also be purchased from the automatic vending machines in the station.  Continue reading

Push car railways in Taiwan

Push cars in Japanese era Taiwan

Push car railways are an interesting and unique feature of Taiwanese railway history. Push cars, known as daisha in Japanese (台車 in Chinese), were a key form of transport in Taiwan during the Japanese era. Knapp writes that they were an "important and short-lived form of intermediate technology". Although most studies focus on the role of roads, railways and harbours in Taiwan's economic development, the push cars played a key role in connecting the hinterlands to the more central towns and north-south railway line. They allowed the Japanese to exercise administrative control and also facilitated the movement of agricultural surplus to markets. Continue reading

Bike Smiling May 2008

The May 2008 edition of Bike Smiling (微笑單車上路) was held on Sunday 25 May. My bilingual report can be found on the Bike Smiling blog. (The Chinese has benefited from some good editing!). Thanks to Victor and Mike of Cycle Taiwan for joining the ride. 

I'd also like to feature this photo of Barking's wonderful sign. The three characters are 免呷油. Pronounced in Mandarin it means, "don't fill up with oil". Pronounced in Hoklo Taiwanese it means "don't eat oil!"

It is very topical with the recent rise in petrol prices. I planned to get a before and after photo of the petrol prices. However, the Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) announced the price increase at short notice, five days earlier than planned. This lead to a frenzy of petrol buying in the hours before it increased. Tim Maddog has written about the media coverage of the price rise. The realities of peak oil and climate change mean that the only way is up. The era of cheap oil is over so get on your bike! 

The next Bike Smiling is on Sunday 29 June at 3:00pm. Meet at the Ren'ai Road gate of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.

Hikes and bikes on the MRT

Bike Smiling along Dunhua Road in Taipei City

There is some good news for cyclists from the Taipei MRT (via Rank). Cyclists can now take their bicycles on the blue line of the MRT. Some conditions still apply and it is only at certain stations. The MRT has also reduced the ticket price for bicycles and their riders to NT$80. Further details from the MRT website

To encourage passengers to visit scenic spots around Taipei on bikes, Taipei Metro has lowered its fare for passengers bringing bikes onboard the MRT during weekends and holidays from NT$100 to NT$80, per person and bike, and irrespective of the travel distance starting on Saturday, March 1, 2008. Taipei Metro has also increased the number of chartered stations where passengers are allowed to enter and exit the metro system with their bikes, from 15 to 27. The 12 newly chartered stations are located on the Banqiao, Nangang, Tuchen, and Xiaonanmen Lines.

This makes it a lot more convenient for cyclists all over Taipei to use the MRT to get out of the city. If you take the blue line out to Tucheng then you can easily ride out to Sanxia and beyond.

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Marc supplied me with a pdf version of the Taipei Metro’s Guide to Hiking and Cycling (5MB pdf file). This useful guide can sometimes be found in MRT stations. Some people might find it convenient to have it in a downloadable format. The guide gives details (in English) of hiking and cycling trails that are easily accessible from MRT stations. Marc pointed out to me that the guide is by no means complete as there are a number of trails not mentioned. There is a lot to discover in and around Taipei!