Riders of large heavy motorcycles would soon be able to access the Tsaopu Senyung Tunnel (草埔森永隧道) on the South Link Highway (南迴公路) — part of the Suhua Highway (Highway No. 9) — as part of a six-month trial, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said on Facebook on Saturday night.
Lin on Friday met with representatives of riders of large motorcycle, and he told Directorate-General of Highways officials to organize a trial for such bikes to traverse the 4.6km tunnel connecting Pingtung and Taitung counties and a new route on the highway, as well as to consider opening another freeway section for heavy motorcycles apart from National Freeway 3A.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications already allows big bikes to use Highway No. 64.
Photo: Chen Yen-ting, Taipei Times
Motorcycles with an engine displacement of more than 50 cubic centimeters (cc) are classified as heavy motorcycles, and those with engine displacement of more than 250cc are categorized as large heavy motorcycles, Lin said.
Lrge heavy motorcycles should have yellow license plates if their engine displacement is between 250cc and 550cc, while those with 550cc or larger engines use red plates, he said.
In Japan, the US and European countries, riders of large heavy motorcycles can use freeways, subject to speed limits and other restrictions, while South Korea, like Taiwan, bans such bikes from freeways, he said.
Whether 550cc or larger motorcycles should be allowed on the freeways has always been a controversial issue in Taiwan, the minister said.
Since legislation was passed in 2011 to allow red-plate motorcycles to use designated freeway or highway sections, there has not been much more progress, Lin said.
“I understand that a majority of people are opposed to allowing riders of large heavy motorcycles to access freeways, as they are concerned it would increase traffic accidents. They are particularly afraid that motorcyclists swerving in and out of traffic at high speeds would pose a safety risk to themselves and drivers,” he said.
Lin said he has been open to suggestions about the issue since he became minister last year, and he has met with riders of large heavy motorcycles a few times.
All of them agreed that safety is the No. 1 priority for themselves and others, he said.
The ministry would invite transportation experts and riders of large heavy motorcycles to jointly analyze footage of the bikers in freeway traffic and assess the safety of such bikes on freeways, he said.
“I do not have a set position on this issue and will communicate the results of their assessment with the public. I would remind the bikers that every time they ride on expressways or highways their behavior could affect the final result of the assessment. They should keep safe following distance and follow the traffic rules,” Lin said.
How bikers conduct themselves while using the tunnel would determine if they would be permitted to use improved sections of the Suhua Highway, the directorate said.
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