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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid