The Bike Island

Expanding cycle lanes vital to build Taiwan into ‘bike island’



TAIPEI, Taiwan — The government was urged yesterday to expand the number of cycle-only lanes around the country so as to help turn Taiwan into a “bike island.”

Liu Chin-piao, chairman of Taiwan’s flagship bicycle maker Giant, said that despite government efforts to promote cycling as part of the efforts to save energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions, Taiwan cyclists’ safety on the roads is not secured and their “rights to use the roads” are not protected at all.

Citing Denmark’s capital of Copenhagen as an example, Liu said that about one third of the city’s office workers go to work by bicycle — one of the highest percentages of cycle commuters in the world.

Liu attributed Copenhagen’s high percentage of cyclists to the government’s sound plans, investment and relevant laws, including building bike routes alongside every major road in the municipality.

Taking the Netherlands as another example, Liu said the Dutch government and public have followed a culture of “replacing cars with bikes” over the past century, as environmental protection has always been a major and sensitive issue in the low-lying country with few hills.

Liu said there are bike routes on every major road in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and parking lots in the Netherlands’ two largest cities exclusively for bicycles.

He quoted statistics from the Netherlands as indicating that each Dutch person owns an average of three bicycles, representing the highest bicycle density in the world.

Moreover, he went on, both the Netherlands and Denmark maintain a “City Bike” service system, allowing people to use bikes free of charge.

Liu said Giant has played a strenuous role as a pusher and a bridge between the government and the public in an effort to make Taiwan’s road conditions more conducive to cycling since its Cycling Lifestyle Foundation was established 18 years ago.

Believing that high fuel prices will result in less frequent automobile use and more widespread use of bikes and electric scooters, Liu said Giant has continued to make efforts in an attempt to turn Taiwan into a “bike island.”

Among the various programs Giant has launched is a service that allows cyclists to “rent a bike at place A and return it at place B” across Taipei city and county.

“A total of 2.65 million people have used the service over the past six years,” Liu said.

In addition, he said, by cooperating with Giant, the Cabinet-level Sports Affairs Council has since 2007 designated May as the “month of cycling” and one of the first days in May as “the day of cycling.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Yuan has been planning to develop bicycle routes alongside major roads in the country’s 25 cities and counties in an effort to save energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

(published China Post : 2008 July 29)