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Challenges for Taiwan to become 'cycling island': foreign expert

2013/03/20 21:28

Taipei, March 20 (CNA) Taiwan needs to lower its speed limits and allocate more space for cyclists if it hopes to achieve its aim of transforming into a "cycling island," a foreign expert said Wednesday.

"The first thing I would tackle is speed," Kevin Mayne, development director of the European Cyclists' Federation, told CNA after a forum that discussed how Taiwan could become a cycling paradise on the sidelines of the Taipei International Cycle Show, Asia's largest bike show, which kicked off that day.

Mayne, whose federation consists of national cycling organizations throughout Europe, said speed limits in Taiwan are too high for cars and scooters to coexist with cyclists.

Cities friendly toward cyclists usually have speed limits of below 30 kilometers per hour, he said, citing German and Dutch cities as examples.

He said lowering speed limits is also a "cheap" solution to building Taiwan into a cycling paradise, as nothing needs to be built. "What you need is political will and enforcement," he added.

Mayne also advised cities in Taiwan to allocate more space for cyclists and to take bolder steps to improve the environment for them, citing New York, Paris, London and Vienna as examples of cities that are currently doing so and upon which Taiwan could model itself.

He said the bike-sharing system in Paris, for example, offered 15,000 bikes when it was first launched, while Taipei's bike-sharing system, Youbike, currently offers only 1,500.

"Too many cities have started too small," he said.

Taiwan's strong bicycle industry is to the country's advantage in developing into a cycling paradise, Mayne went on.

The Taiwanese people's underlying interest in cycling -- evident in the fact that many local people still ride bikes on the roads despite the traffic conditions -- is also an advantage, he added.

He said there are economic benefits in turning Taiwan into a "cycling island," including savings in public health, transportation costs and road repair, lower carbon emissions, better air quality, less traffic congestion and a more vibrant and healthier society.

Meanwhile, King Liu, chairman of Taiwan's bicycle titan Giant, pointed out that the government invested NT$3 billion (US$100.85 million) to build 2,088 km of dedicated bike lanes around the country between 1999 and 2011.

The government plans to invest a further NT$1.2 billion to build more bike lanes in the next four years, he went on.

Giant cooperated with the Taipei city government in 2009 to launch the Youbike, which is now used by over 20,000 people every day, a number that is expected to increase when the program is expanded this year, he added.

(By Christie Chen) ENDITEM/J