Bike Share and Biking in Taipei (Part II)

Following up on my previous post in cycling in Taipei, here are some further impressions and thoughts on the YouBike system there and the cycling infrastructure in general.

As I mentioned before, the YouBike system works well. My initial suggestion to make the stations more visible is of course only necessary if you don’t have a mobile phone, which most – if not all – users will have. It is quite naturally also put into an existing infrastructure and in some places is well thought out and fits in quite nicely with the existing roadway design.

There is also the issue that drivers in Taipei tend to be very courteous to cyclists and pedestrians alike. This makes for a much more pleasant experience than in many other places around the world. Cyclists are also welcome on the MRT, as seen here:

But there are issues that make the cycling experience less comfortable than it could be. Clearly, cycling came as somewhat of an afterthought in Taipei and it is being squeezed into the existing design. So what you get are nice pathways that travel underneath the MRT lines, such as this one:

But then that path, when hitting a canal or another roadway, either suddenly ends or you are shot out into regular traffic. And when that happens, you are sometimes left to head up stairs like this:

Then there are the dreaded sharrows whose arrows signify the position where cyclists are supposed to be. For the most part it is a confusing element in the roadspace. The particular placement shows what the problem with sharrows are. Instead of placing you in a part of the lane that is safe, this one requires you to maneuver in and out of traffic.

But overall, cycling in Taipei is a pleasure. Part of that comes through the sheer number of people who are on bikes. Both images are from National Taiwan University, the first one showing a problem in terms of parking in the designated bicycle lane (which is, in the grand scheme of things, a good problem to have).

During my time in Taipei I bicycled all over the city, day and night, for pleasure and for business. The bike share system is reliable, efficient and easy to use. The infrastructure, if the government bureaucracy wants this to be the case, can be adapted and improved. I look forward to my next visit and my first choice for moving about will certainly be either my own bike or YouBike.

Bike Share in Taipei

I am on a trip to Taipei for work. I had briefly toyed with the idea of taking my foldable along and bike in from the airport, but in the end I decided against it. Part of the reason was that Taipei looked to have a reasonably promising bike share program called YouBike, with stations literally all over the city.

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After getting to the city by bus (fast, efficient, inexpensive) I had dinner with a friend and we then decided that it would be good idea to sign me up with YouBike. Once you know what to do (and have a friend who volunteers her sister’s Taiwanese phone number) the process is straightforward.

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You buy a card that you can use for the metro and YouBike (your friendly 7 Eleven gives you choice of designs), top it off with some funds, register your card at a kiosk (with the help of your friend’s sister) and then off you go.

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Lots of screens like this.

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Finally, success: img_20161113_210755 img_20161113_183642

I ended up going down one of the major thoroughfares of Taipei (Zhongxiao Road for those in the know or interested), heading back to my hotel. As always, exploring the city by bike is fun. I had done the same route in reverse by metro (fast, efficient, inexpensive), but this was far better.

Not only because are you above ground and actually get to see things, but drivers are generally courteous and give you room, with only a few minor instances of hurried driving.

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I decided against riding on the sidewalk as most people seem to do. Far too many pedestrians for my comfort and theirs.

That means you inevitably find yourself in a sea of scooters. Unlike in mainland China where it seems a large number of those are now electric, I have yet to see a single non-gasoline engine scooter so far.

img_20161113_212443 img_20161113_212207 The bikes are decent and ride well, but nothing I would want to use for a full day outing if given a choice. But the bikes and the system work and both work well. My only quibble is to make the stations more visible by putting up a sign with the logo so you can see them across six lanes of traffic. But that’s a first world problem to have. I dropped off the bike close to my hotel and headed to bed. More exploring in the days to come. Stay tuned.