Guatemalan envoy praises Taipei’s bicycle program

TWIN BENEFITS::Mildred Espinoza said the city’s bicycle rental program was a good way to explore the city and to promote public health

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Feb 06, 2013 - Page 3

Guatemalan “ambassador of tourism” Mildred Espinoza said that one of the things that impressed her on a recent visit to Taipei was the number of people riding bicycles in the capital.

The “bicycles that I see around” give people an opportunity to explore Taiwan in a different way and is also a way to promote health, Espinoza told the Central News Agency in an interview in Taipei last week.

When a country promotes health, “you see that it’s a country that cares about its people,” Espinoza said.

Many people in Taipei own bicycles, while rentals are also available at private shops and under a program launched by the Taipei City Government in 2009 to make bicycles more easily accessible for exercise, recreation or to commute to work.

Taipei did not have a public bicycle rental system until the city government collaborated with Taiwanese manufacturer Giant to launch YouBike, as the city’s program is called.

It rents more than 10,000 bikes each day, with the turnover rate as high as eight to nine times per day for each of the easily identifiable orange bikes, the city government said.

The rental system is part of the city’s efforts to promote green transportation and establish a bike-friendly environment.

There are 53 YouBike rental stations with a total of 1,844 bikes in six of the city’s 12 districts, according to Taipei’s Department of Transportation. The department said it aims to expand the program to all districts in the city.

To encourage greater use of the bicycles, the city government in August last year introduced an incentive rental rate of NT$10 for 30 minutes, with the first half-hour free.

Espinoza, who visited Taiwan from Monday to Saturday last week, said she was impressed by Taiwan’s tourism promotion strategies.

During a visit to the Tourism Bureau, she was shown a promotional video for travel in Taiwan, which she rated highly.

“It really touches you. It connects with the people,” she said. “It allows you to see what different people are here to experience.”

She said other countries can learn from Taiwan’s experience in promoting tourism.

Espinoza was among a group of experts on UN affairs invited to learn more about Taiwan’s efforts to expand its international space.