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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid