News / Asia

Cheap Bicycle Rentals Change Congested Taipei

FILE - Cyclists cruise down a bike path in Taipei, Taiwan.
FILE - Cyclists cruise down a bike path in Taipei, Taiwan.
Ralph Jennings
As other major cities in Asia fight choking smog and traffic, the city of Taipei, in Taiwan, is offering its 2.6 million people a fast, cheap and non-polluting way to cross town. The Taiwanese are pedaling to work, among other places, as part of a city-run bike rental network. But the surging popularity of the program has led to new traffic headaches.  
 
Five years ago, motor scooters jousted with taxis and buses for space on narrow Taipei streets as people struggled through rush-hour traffic. Then the city backed a plan to start renting bicycles, following the lead of places in Japan and South Korea.
 
Since then, the city has made 11 million rentals, much of that over the past year. Customers pay nothing for the first half hour. Each 30 minutes afterwards costs less than half a U.S. dollar.
 
Hsu Tsai-tung, a 37-year-old Taipei office worker, cycles to parks, a university and her workplace on rented bikes for a host of personal reasons.
 
"One advantage is that the rental is free in the beginning and good for my health as an office worker who doesn't move during the day. Waiting for a bus would mean spending time, which I avoid by riding a bike. Cycling is a natural choice because it's convenient, saves money and promotes health," she said.
 
Some also pedal for convenience, as the orange one-speed bikes can be dropped off at any of the existing 129 rental stations, all of which are self-operated with smart cards.
 
The shift to bicycles could also ease air pollution, which has become a health hazard around much of urban Asia.
 
In China, Shanghai has posted record pollution levels this month with particulate levels at nearly 20 times above what the World Health Organization considers safe. Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Shen Shu-hung, says he wants to know whether bikes have brought down Taipei's pollution, which has been found to endanger commuters and people living on low building floors.
 
"Taiwan is conducting an analysis on whether the rental program, called YouBike, has reduced air pollution. I am taking a cautious view for now, in case it turns out that bike renters are people who previously spared the air by walking or riding the metro, so the government needs a more in-depth study," he said.
 
But the 5,350 bicycles on the streets today have begun to cause new problems for city traffic. People who pedal through the streets compete with illegal sudden stops and fast right turns by motor vehicles. Bike riders have switched to the sidewalks as a result, scaring or angering pedestrians, despite a police ban on the practice.
 
Taipei Department of Transportation official Huang Huang-chia says no single type of incident has become epidemic, but riders need to be better educated.
 
He describes incidents involving rented bikes as isolated cases that are not necessarily concentrated in any specific category of problem. The city's approach, he says, will be to educate people on every aspect of bicycle safety in Taipei.
 
The rest of Asia may not be far behind. Bike rentals have taken hold in Kyoto, Japan; the Chinese city of Hangzhou and Daejeon in South Korea. Taipei will finish its program with a total of 162 rental stations by the end of next year.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Announce Breakthrough on Nuclear Deal

Deal resolves differences over liability of suppliers to India in event of a nuclear accident, U.S. demands on tracking whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid