Cyclists around the country enjoyed Car-Free Day yesterday, which gave them a taste of what it was once like when bicycles ruled the road. But just like Cinderella’s ball, the dream ended at midnight. For the rest of the year, cyclists must live in a state of limbo, neither fish nor fowl, without the rights of either pedestrians or vehicles.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has declared that its Directorate General of Highways “will cooperate in establishing standards for road layouts in Taiwan in which bicycle lanes must be included when building roads as a basis for road construction by all civil engineering departments and companies in future.” But is this kind of blanket policy really what cyclists need?
Bicycle lane planning in Taiwan faces several problems. Traffic layout in urban areas should put people first when prioritizing road use by different kinds of vehicles. Consideration needs to be given to how much space should be allocated for cars and how much for public transport, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. Existing traffic conditions and volumes of automobile traffic, however, should not be the sole standards for setting road use priorities because circumstances can change.
From a humanistic and environmental point of view, sidewalks for pedestrians should be given top priority, followed by provision for buses, trams and bicycles. In reality, the car remains king of the road. Now the ministry has set a blanket rule based on a fledgling model for urban transport, authorities in smaller towns and rural areas will throw up their hands and say: “How are we going to squeeze in the proposed extra lanes for bicycles? This will have to wait until whole areas are replanned and rebuilt.”
If the ministry wants to promote bicycle lanes, they must be integrated in a sustainable public transportation policy. The MOTC should cooperate with the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency on a policy that promotes the participation of local governments. The network of bike lanes in different cities should be connected, rather than just opening up new roads. If road construction merely follows MOTC standards, engineers will only consider bike lanes within the priorities set by those standards.
Simply put, if a provincial highway should be 30m wide, engineers will only consider road use within that scope, and Taiwan would soon have a network of bike lanes following major roads. But bike lanes should meet the requirements of bicycles and their riders. They don’t need to rigidly follow the road network, since slope angle and curvature requirements are very different from those of roads for cars. They also do not need to run alongside main roads, forcing cyclists to ride alongside massive buses, gravel trucks and more. Surely this cannot be the intent, nor is it the kind of bike lane that bike enthusiasts want.
Bike lanes make up the first link in a chain of energy savings and carbon emission reduction measures. Getting more people out of gas-guzzling vehicles and onto bikes is also a public health policy. Focusing on what cyclists want and need when planning and building new bike paths would also provide a way to reform the bureaucratic system so that it focuses on the public’s wants and needs rather than itself.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
There is no ambiguity when it comes to war. Ambiguity begs for certainty and a lack thereof has historically led to war. History is full of examples: Europe’s and the US’ ambiguity as to how they would respond to Hitler’s growing territorial expansion in Europe was certainly a contributing factor to World War II. In the same vein, US ambiguity toward Japan’s expansionist militarism in the 1930s clearly led to the Pearl Harbor attacks that started the war in Asia in 1941. Ambiguity in a world with leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will inevitably