Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 2 News List

City's `carless day' just a public gimmick: activists

`SUPERFICIAL' Activists said if the city was serious about reducing car ownership, it should stop building parking complexes and promote other modes of transportation

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Environmentalists and activists panned the Taipei City Govern-ment's annual "In Town, Without My Car" (ITWMC) activity as a public-relations exercise that was short on commitment to reduce the number of motor vehicles in the city.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Huang Jen-chih (黃仁志) of the Organization of Urban Re's (OURs) said that the number of motor vehicles in Taipei had risen every year despite the city government's holding of the ITWMC event for six years in a row.

The ITWMC day originated in France in 1997, but have since spread to 1,300 towns and cities in 40 countries around the world, according to a UK Department of Transport Web site. Taipei has been a participant since 2002.

Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), a member of the Green Party, described Taipei's involvement in the event as too superficial.

"In other cities, the entire town center is cleared of cars, but in Taipei only certain areas are declared off limits," Pan said. "Last year it was Xinyi District; this year it is Zhongxiao [E Road], between Dunhua [S Road] and Fuxing [S Road]."

The centerpiece of this Saturday's "carless day" is a 12km bike ride from Banciao's Citizen Plaza to Taipei City Hall. However, the ride is just a reminder that Taipei's mass rapid transit (MRT) system is bicycle-unfriendly, Huang said.

Ordinarily, only selected stations on the Red (Tamsui) line are open to bicycles for a fee (NT$100 per bike). On the day of the ride itself, there will also be limited access to bikes on the Blue (Bannan) line. However, cyclists will not be allowed to transfer from the Red to the Blue line or vice versa.

"How are those who live along the Red line supposed to get to Banciao for the event?" Huang asked.

"The government has never thought of the bicycle as a mode of transportation, but rather a leisure activity or a convenient symbol if it wants to make a show of being environmentally friendly," Pan said.

If the government is serious about reducing the number of cars on the road, it should stop further constructions of parking complexes and reduce the number of lanes for cars, Pan and Huang said.

The city is carrying out parking lot construction projects at a combined cost of NT$8.2 billion to offer 6,000 more parking places to automobile users and 1,500 more to motorbike riders, they said.

They added that the city government should add more bus lanes, widen pedestrian pavements and update the bus system to complement instead of compete with the MRT.

"Less cars would make for a more pleasant city, with lower pollution," Huang said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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