Besides being legally defined as slow-moving vehicles, bicycles in Taiwan may now acquire a new definition as "speedy pedestrians" or suren (
The new definition was proposed by the Institute of Transportation, the organization that makes recommendations on transportation policy to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).
The institute's transportation engineering division director James Tseng (
In other circumstances, however, cyclists may be asked to dismount and walk their bikes instead.
"The idea is that rather than fighting for the right of way, vehicles and pedestrians learn to share limited space," he said.
Some argue that bicycles should be regulated like pedestrians, as they have the capacity to use sidewalks and other areas where motor vehicles are not allowed.
Tseng said confusion remains as to whether a bicycle should be perceived as simply another slow-moving vehicle or just another pedestrian.
He said there are safety concerns when bicycles are allowed on regular road lanes like other motor vehicles.
"Even when you have a street wide enough to have a specific lane for bicycles, cyclists will inevitably clash with drivers of motor vehicles at intersections when they make turns," Tseng said.
But defining a bicycle as a pedestrian could generate a new set of issues, he said.
"Being classed as a pedestrian would mean that a bicycle could also travel on sidewalks," he said. "If that is the case, loose regulation [of bicycles] may put pedestrians in danger."
Tseng said that sidewalks are not able to accommodate the need of cyclists either.
Tseng said that dual status would allow local governments to be more flexible when stipulating their own policies about bicycles.
Using Taipei's Zhongxiao E Road as an example, Tseng said the traffic volume dropped sharply following the opening of the Banciao-Nangang MRT line. Later, he said traffic volumes returned to pre-MRT levels.
Tseng said the Taipei City Government could have used that opportunity to design a bicycle route on one of the city's busiest streets.
Tseng said that the new definitions would not require major changes in traffic regulations.
The institute's proposal further sets the goal of making Taiwan a cyclist-friendly environment within the next 10 years.
The institute's director general, Huang Te-chih (黃德治), emphasized that the proposal was made after many rounds of discussions with advocates of cyclists' rights. The MOTC will make the final decision, he said.
Huang said that cities are entitled to make necessary adjustments to suit their particular circumstances.
Huang said MOTC Minister Tsai Duei (