Persuading Taiwanese to Pedal

The environmental benefits of getting people to ride bicycles instead of using petroleum-powered vehicles are obvious. Hoping to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption, mitigate air and noise pollution and ease road congestion, dozens of governments now encourage their citizens to pedal or walk, rather than drive.

Proponents of cycling point to countries like the Netherlands and cities like Copenhagen. In both, the majority of people regularly use bikes to get to work or school. Despite hefty investments in bike-only lanes and other infrastructure, and a sizable population of leisure cyclists, nowhere in Taiwan has developed a cycling culture remotely like that of northwestern Europe.

According to a 2014 Ministry of Transportation and Communications survey on traveling habits, the demographic most dependent on bikes are teenagers who ride to school. The unemployed and retirees are more likely than full-time workers to use bicycles, yet just 9.8 percent of those aged 65 or above say they cycle when the journey exceeds 500m.

For a Taiwanese perspective on European cycling habits, and what Taiwan could learn from Europe, Taipei Times reached out to Lin Fen-yu, a Taichung native who’s lived in the Dutch city of Delft since 2014.

Lin, who works for a company that designs and engineers floating urban projects, says she got around by bike throughout her high school and university studies in Taiwan, and that she often rides when she’s back in her hometown of Taichung’s Fengyuan District. In Delft, now that she’s used to the weather, she uses a bicycle almost every day of the year.

According to Lin, key differences between the cycling environment in Taiwan and that in the Netherlands include, in the latter: better infrastructure; far stricter enforcement of traffic rules; and a widespread understanding of road-use etiquette that not only makes riding safer, but also ensures the harmonious co-existence of cyclists and pedestrians.

In Taiwan, she says, more than once she’s been on a bike lane that’s ended without warning, only to mysteriously reappear a few blocks down the road…

To read the rest of this article, which appeared in Taipei Times on November 24, go here.