Tue, May 03, 2016 - Page 8 News List

What type of bikeway is suitable for Taipei?

By Albert Tsai 蔡德一

To make main roads less dangerous and create a bike-friendly environment for cyclists, the Taipei City Government has planned and partially constructed a bikeway network consisting of three east-west and three north-south bike paths by widening existing sidewalks, to try and separate pedestrians and vehicles.

Unexpectedly, it has been suggested that this important bikeway project is one of the reasons Taipei has major traffic congestion and some people see it as a rerun of the now-abandoned exclusive cycle lane on Dunhua North Road. Furthermore, the idea has recently experienced a backlash from borough wardens.

Could it be that Taipei does not really need a bikeway network?

Given that the existing fixed-route public transport system cannot provide a door-to-door service between homes and various destinations, a bikeway network, together with public rental bicycles, is designed to be the “last mile” of the transport system, so the network is needed. However, does it have to take the form of three east-west and three north-south cycle tracks, or are there other possible models?

Teachers and students at the Chinese Culture University’s landscape architecture department have researched the route choices of cyclists based on their trip purposes. The study shows that the main concern for people commuting from home to workplace or school is reaching their destination in the shortest possible time. If the total travel time of a bicycle ride plus a mass public transport ride is about the same as or less than that of traveling by private vehicles, then bicycles might be one of the means of transport that they use to commute, but complementary public transport shuttle services must first be fully provided.

People commuting to work mostly choose to cycle along main roads so as to get straight to a bus stop or metro station and then transfer to public transport. Students, on the other hand, generally choose to cycle to school via neighborhood lanes and alleys. Although every lane and alley is a possible choice for students, only a few lanes and alleys in each school district permit them to arrive in the shortest possible time and are relatively heavily used.

For the most part, when cyclists set out to do their day-to-day shopping, they cycle from shop to shop for their daily needs and then go home. Since shops are not necessarily located along main roads, these cyclists tend to cycle along neighborhood lanes and alleys and not so much along main roads.

Leisure cyclists, for the most part, are concerned with relaxation and interest, so they can choose their routes even more freely. Although riverside cycle paths are often their main riding routes, some neighborhood lanes and alleys serve as thoroughfares between cyclists’ homes and the riverside.

Because Taipei is so densely developed, and because bicycles are not as fast as scooters, it is hard for cyclists to get right of way. In view of these features, the layout of cycle routes in Taipei should not mimic that of other nations. Instead, the network layout should give prime consideration to cyclists’ behavior and safety. Short-distance bikeway networks should therefore stress the connectivity of lane and alley routes.

As long as clear traffic signs, traffic lines and signposts are installed and sufficient explanations are provided, a well-used cycle route network can be created within a short period. As for medium-to-long-distance bikeway networks, they need not be put into effect until city residents have got into the habit of using bicycles as their principal means of transport.

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