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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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!
Last month while participating in the Green Party bike ride I learned of Bike Smiling (微笑單車上路), Taiwan's version of Critical Mass. In Taipei it is held on the last Sunday of every month and today I joined for the first time. I turned up about twenty minutes before the scheduled starting time and there was not another cyclist to be seen. It was somewhat serendipitous to see the bicycle shaped lights decorating Ren'ai Road for the Lantern Festival though.
Around three o'clock a couple more cyclists arrived and by the time we hit the road there were about ten cyclists in all. The small group made it easy for everyone to ride together.
The ride stopped outside the Taipei Arena to watch an advertisement opposing the Su-Hua Freeway (蘇花高). If you look closely at the photo above you can make out the words "No Freeway for Freedom".
At the end of the ride people checked out everyone's bikes. The folding bikes seemed to attract plenty of attention. Two of them are being used here to do a Critical Mass style bike lift. If you are in Kaohsiung Bike Smiling will be at 7:00pm on Friday 29 February. The next one in Taipei is on Sunday 30 March starting from the main gate of NTU at 3:00pm.
*Bike Smiling photos at flickr and report on the Bike Smiling blog: 20080224台北微笑單車上路.
I've ridden the HSR, MRT and TRA, but there was still one train system in Taiwan that I had yet to ride. It was the skytrain at the Taoyuan International Airport. I was at the airport today and had some free time so I thought I would take a ride and take some photos too.
This little two carriage train shuttles passengers between Terminals One and Two of the airport.
The cars are self-guided running on concrete tracks, much like the Muzha line of the Taipei MRT.
And here is a view inside the carriage. As the journey between the two terminals only takes a couple of minutes it is barely necessary to sit down.
More photos in the Taoyuan Airport set at flickr.