Thousands of people took part in the International Car-Free Day event in Taipei city and county yesterday morning, touring the area on pedal power.
The event, part of the city government's "2005 Public Transportation Month," was inspired by an event first held in France in 1998.
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) led the crowd of bikers on a 10km-ride from the front of Taipei City Hall to the Huachiang Bridge, where they met up with acting Taipei County Commissioner Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀) and a group of bikers from Taipei County.
The two officials signed a joint declaration in support of the Kyoto Protocol and reaffirmed their commitment to helping curb global warming by reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.
"The combined population of Taipei city and county is more than 6 million people. We are trying to connect the city and county's cycling routes to encourage more people to go without cars," Ma said after signing the declaration on the bridge.
There are almost 100km of cycling routes in Taipei City, while the county has 170km of bike paths.
Clad in a yellow cycling outfit, an energetic participant in yesterday's ride surnamed Wang said he has been living "car-free" for years.
"I go to work by bike everyday. It takes me 20 minutes, but I find it healthy and fun," he said.
Another participant, surnamed Tan, said she has taken part in the car-free event for the past three years. Only on such a day, she said, would she dare to ride on roads usually packed with cars, buses and motorcycles.
"I hope the city government can keep its promise to expand cycling routes, so that we can enjoy the right of riding," she said.
International Car-Free Day began in France in 1998, with the "In town, without my car" festival. It is now celebrated by 100 million people each year in some 1,500 cities around the world.
To encourage more people to join the car-free movement, Taipei City Transportation Department will hold a drawing, with a "Super MRT card" as the top prize. The card winner will get unlimited free MRT rides for more than 1,000 days, which could translate into a savings of more than NT$100,000 (US$3,036).
To enter the drawing, people must take the Taipei MRT more than 10 times before Oct. 16 and must register online at city government's "Car Free Day" Web site (www.dot.taipei.gov.tw/ch/).
Other prizes include a cash "NT$10,000 Giveaway Everyday" and 3,000 souvenir MRT cards.
For more information on other events during Taipei's "2005 Public Transportation Month can be found on the Public Transportation Month Web site (www.tvbs.com/project/free_car/index.asp).