The Greater Taichung Government is planning to establish a public bike system — I-Bike. The city’s Transportation Bureau Director-General Lin Liang-tai at a city council meeting last week reported that Greater Taichung is setting up 60 public bike stations at all of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stops, as well as in the city’s Central and West districts, and the business districts and scenic spots of the seventh redevelopment zone. The system is estimated to go online by the middle of next year and renting a public bike will cost NT$20 per hour. However, by obtaining a subsidy from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), it will be able to offer the first 30 minutes free of charge like Taipei.
Lin says that the bureau has obtained NT$5 million (US$169,995) this year from the EPA to conduct a research project for the I-Bike public bicycle rental program. Starting next year, $NT50 million will be allotted to the program annually for two years, making for a total of NT$100 million to build up the program. The goal is to set up 60 bike stations with 25 bikes at each station. The public bidding process will start immediately after the city council passes the budget. It is expected to take half a year to get things in order before the achievements can be seen by the middle of next year, Lin says.
The BRT and I-Bike will be integrated, with the latter serving as a transfer system for the BRT. The Central and West districts and the seventh redevelopment zone will be the main pilot areas, including stations at the Greater Taichung Government, Calligraphy Greenway, Maple Garden, department stores and business districts.
I-Bike bikes can be rented at one station and returned at another, Lin says, adding that you have to use electronic payment cards to rent the bikes, the same four cards that can be used for public buses, including Taipei’s EasyCard, the Taiwan Easy Go Card, the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp’s I-Pass Card or the Electronic Toll Collection Card. The EPA uses its Air Pollution Fund to subsidize Taipei’s U-Bike program, allowing it to provide the special first-30-minutes-free deal, which the bureau will try to obtain from the EPA so that it can do as Taipei does.
Greater Taichung Deputy Mayor Tsai Ping-kun says that the U-Bike system is quite popular in Taipei, but that there have been issues with public bikes, pedestrians and motorcycles competing for space. The Greater Taichung Government must deal with this issue ahead of time to avoid the I-Bike system having the same problems, Tsai says.
In response to this, Lin says that the public must be educated about riding the public bikes — slowing down when approaching pedestrians, and when safety permits, people 13 years of age or older should be allowed to ride bikes in lanes for slower traffic on roads. In order to further develop public transportation, the city will evaluate whether sidewalks in areas where I-Bike bikes are expected to be used could be cleared and roadside parking spots could be abolished, Lin says.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)