Wed, Jul 05, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Respect all who share roads, paths

Cyclists who like to bike on the sidewalk should beware: As of July 17, it could be a costly habit.

Taipei traffic police were supposed to start fining those who ride where they should not on Saturday last week, but Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) delayed implementation because of “inadequate advertising,” saying that he had not even known about the move.

The city will be enforcing a NT$300 fine for cyclists who ride on sidewalks that are part of shop arcades when there is a bike path available, those who ride on sidewalks not designated for bicycle use and those who do not yield to pedestrians on shared bicycle-and-pedestrian paths.

Such behavior has been illegal for several years, with fines in place, but until now cyclists have mostly gotten off with warnings.

The capital’s bike path system is convenient and ever-expanding, with the city planning to add 192.9km by 2019, while Taipei’s YouBike system is growing quickly, with the number of bikes soaring from 500 in 2009 to a projected 13,000 by next year and more recreational cyclists riding their own bikes.

However, Taipei’s population density is so high that it is impossible to designate separate spaces in all areas for pedestrians, bicycles, scooters and cars. To truly become a bike-friendly city, there needs to be much more regulation as well as education outreach programs that teach the rules of the road and respect for others.

Many people still perceive cyclists as hazards and hazardous. A 2015 government survey found that 36.9 percent of non-cyclists cited the most annoying cyclist behavior as cycling in arcades or on sidewalks.

Other common misbehavior includes riding the wrong way, riding side-by-side with another cyclist, trying to snake through pedestrians on narrow sidewalks, running red lights, making illegal turns and zigzagging through traffic. Some people also do not think bicycling while drunk is a problem.

Bicycles are vehicles, and cyclists should not pretend to be pedestrians or switch between the two as the situation sees fit.

Fines are a good place to start, but cracking down on cyclists is just part of the solution — there needs to be more education for those who share the roads and sidewalks, be they bipeds, four-footed creatures, two-wheelers or motor vehicles, as well as more awareness about which areas are meant to be shared between cyclists and pedestrians.

Too often does one see pedestrians walking on bike paths staring at their cellphones, oblivious to the bikes that whizz by dangerously close to them. Pedestrians need to be aware of bike paths and check for oncoming traffic instead of just crossing blindly through the paths on their way to the curb, while drivers also block the bike paths to load and unload goods.

Furthermore, many cyclists prefer to ride on sidewalks because people in cars and on scooters see them as nuisances and are not willing to share the road in a courteous manner. There is an epidemic of drivers not using their signal blinkers, which is extremely hazardous to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

With the explosion of the number of cyclists, perhaps bike safety should be included in drivers’ education.

To truly mitigate this problem and make Taipei friendly to all modes of transportation, everyone needs to do their part, not because they are wary of being fined, but because it is the right thing to do.

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