EDITORIAL : Lane a testament to incompetence

Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 8

A mere six months after the Taipei City Government opened the bicycle lane along Dunhua Road, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) has announced that the lane will henceforth be reserved for cyclists only on weekends. Scooters and cars will be allowed to use it on weekdays, making the bicycle lane practically useless to cyclists. Cyclists have shown no enthusiasm for the lane, residents are unhappy with it and motorists have not lent their cooperation.

This was a long-expected failure. The original intent with this bicycle lane, which cost about NT$100 million (US$3.14 million), was to promote commuting by bicycle to save energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Regrettably, the city government didn’t hold public hearings with local residents, cyclists and drivers before building the lane. Instead, a few traffic department officials came up with a plan that resulted in a flawed bicycle lane monopolized by scooters and cars, making it impossible for cyclists to use.

Of course cyclists were not enthusiastic about it and continued to ride on the sidewalk. Drivers also complained about traffic congestion as car lanes were deprived of space to make way for the bike lanes. Afraid that this fiasco would affect the year-end mayoral election, the government has now tried to maintain some semblance of face by turning the project into a bicycle lane for leisure use on weekends.

The problem will remain, however, even on weekends, because scooters and cars will continue to swerve in and out of the lane and cars will continue to use it as a parking space. In practice, the bicycle lane is ready to be scrapped: The painted concrete paving is slippery, the relief markings make it uneven and the width is inconsistent. Its existence reminds Taipei residents of the incompetence of the people who planned it.

Almost every city in Taiwan is developing a bicycle lane system, but Taipei is the only city that has failed so spectacularly. Taipei City has several decades of experience in planning, building and running MRT lines, but the Wenshan-Neihu line is the only one that has problems. Cable cars are not a high-tech product, and the cable car at Sun Moon Lake has already been in operation for some time without problems or complaints. When it comes to the Maokong Gondola, however, people are afraid to use it.

The irregularities that have occurred in connection with these three public construction projects highlight the Taipei City Government’s inability to make plans and its ineptitude at implementing and supervising them.

Flawed decision-making is even more frightening than corruption. Civil servants taking several million dollars is bad enough, but the Taipei City Government has wasted hundreds of millions on inappropriate policymaking. It owes Taipei residents an apology for its preposterous planning, and someone should take responsibility.

If the city government will not change its ways, the city council should hold it responsible, the Control Yuan should investigate its oversights and residents should display their dissatisfaction with these manmade disasters in the year-end mayoral election.