Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taiwan's bike lane colors.

Bike lanes in Taipei (Tun-Hua) are Green, (with less wide area's in other colors). In Kao-Hsiung they are Red (picture above. However in Tao-Yuan Shien they are Red/Blue (see an earlier post in April: "Promising but not in Taipei"). Does this service any specific purpose? Hopefully this is not political. Is there or will there be a Taiwanese standard for bike lanes? (and please.. also for signs, in Kao-Shiung they write "Bike lane" in Chinese on the road, in Taipei it's a sign like in Tao-yuan, but Tao-Yuan sign is different than in Taipei... etcetera.. .) take a look at this bike lane failure here

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why every road in Taipei should have 8 lanes

The 1st lane is used for parked motorcycles and bikes, because often the side-walks just don't offer enough space and people still park there anyhow.
The 2nd lane is for bikes (completely isolated from any other lanes, otherwise motorcycles and car will park and drive on it)
The 3rd lane is for parked cars
The 4th lane is for double parked cars (because this if often more normal than an exception)
The 5th lane is for those litte vans, taxis and buses to pick up people
The 6th lane is for motorcycles, because I really hate them being spread all over all the lanes riding at 60 to 70km/h and drive so very close to my car and damage it
The 7th lane is for cars which go straight
The 8th lane is for cars which need to turn left.

The last reason is that 8 is a lucky number, so it's easy to remember.

We could reduce this to 7 lanes, if car parking is prohibited, however, car drivers ignore this, so still need one lane for parked cars.

More bike lanes , cities excluded

Sorry, your tax money is used to promote tourism in the next year - don't expect benefits to come back in your regular paycheck. So it's not for you - city citizen - who want to get to work easily by bike. Unless ofcourse you work for the bike and related companies that probably will be able to rent or sell their stuff to the tourists. Wonder , wonder which companies get selected...

Meanwhile, Wang said, the transportation ministry will assist local governments in developing five model cycling trails in Taipei County, Yilan County, Hualien County and Taitung County, all of which are known for their tourism resources.

By the way, these government sponsored facilites may kill the fitness clubs that already exist. Unless ofcourse people are smart enough to choose a center where you have professional trianers who can help to prevent you to train incorrectly (and hurt yourself)

News is here

Ride For Dream

Ride for dream website is here and here and the news article is here

New bike lanes and plans

Some more new articles related to biking


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The potential Taipei bike lane failure

Well, even the bike lanes not finished (the progress is quite slow) the failure of it is already apparent.

I tried the new Tung-Hua North road bike lane a few times. At the distance of only few hundred meters the number of cars, taxis and vans that just bluntly parked on the bike road were countless. Yes, PARKED, I checked and in several vehicles no person could be found. Somee taxi drivers were having their lunch and some other were just taking a midday nap. It did not happen only once, but on EVERY single occasion I rode the lane. The space for normal traffic is now less because there is the bike lane, thus the danger to be hit by a car from behind and the taxis or being hit by a taxi or van opening the door has increased.. This does not mean the bike lane is a failure. How can Taipei change the behavior of these engine driven road users? It's all in the culture and enforcing the law. I drive my car every day in Taipei, but no way I would ever think about parking my car bluntly right there on the bike lane. BTW: Buses still need to pick up people, will there be islands?

The speed of (traffic) light

Ever crossed a big cross-section by bike when the light just changed? While you were completely occupied trying to cross the road before bikers and cars run into you, did you notice how long it took for the traffic light to change from green to red? No? you be surprised. If you look, uh.. count closely, you can find that it only takes 1 second from green to yellow (or orange if you prefer) an the other second goes into to change to red, and I found this is consistent at small and big cross sections in Taipei.

So imagine, at the MOT proposed maximum speed of 15km/h for bikers, how far will you get in 2 seconds? Well simple mathematics will show you that is 4.16 meters per sec, thus around 8 meters! If you ride a road bike like me (I have to confess I violate this informal speed limit) at around 25km/h, that is around 14 meters.

Are roads wider than that in Taipei? Oh, Definitely yes. Try to cross Tung-Hua South road from Hsin-Yi. The gap is huge! Let's take a car, 50KM/H, that would be 26 meters only. Even a car won't make it. So, bottom line. The lights are changing way too fast!

And again, yesterday, I was just halfway on the crossing and there the light went, yellow.. a police officer who was "controlling" (Actually more just copying the traffic light) saw me coming and while it was yellow.. stopped me !! Told me "just wait here" , I was there halfway, beside the police officer, with all buses, cars, and all other traffic passing me in the front and back. That was weird.

Blame it on the bike

Article here

Somehow frustration is creeping up again when reading this article which reflects the "blame it on the biker" policy the MOT has been exercising for so many years now. It's an such easy way to deflect from the real (Infrastructural) problems.

4% of all traffic accidents are related to biking. That makes 96% of them related to pedestrians and engine enabled vehicles. Assuming the number of pedestrian accidents are in the range of bikers, could we thus conclude it would NOT be bikers causing most of accidents? No, ofcourse not.

As always, one should be very careful with such conclusions. Are these just made by MOT folks comfortably tucked away behind their desks while the sales of bikes are spiking and the infrastructure for bikes is not coming, while cars, taxis, vans, trucks and motorcycles showing more and more disrespect for bikers or did they really dig into the statistic to find the root causes?

Concentration? Where did these accidents happen City or urban areas? The article only points at the bikers, but there is not conclusion made of what MOT plans to do about it.

Data ? Where is the supporting data? Ofcourse an increase it not good, but if we would double the number of engine enabled vehicles, wouldn't we see an increase in accidents too?

Deaths? Yes, helmets may help, but helmets are a reactive solution. Wearing helmets may reduce deaths but won't reduce the number of collisions. It’s the same kind of solution like saying, "you should buy a Benz, because it’s more safe".

Lights? May help, but will Taiwan enforce to have every bike sold to be sold with lights or even sponsor it? In Europe when you buy a bike, you get it with lights. Not here. In Taipei the roads have a lot of light already and even without lights you are clearly visible. Though in IMHO behavior and the infrastructure play the major role for reducing accidents before lights will make a significant impact. Ofcourse, MOT may have have more details to challenge this view.

Awarenesss? There is so much MOT can do to improve road safety, but not much seems to happen or learned. It comes down to reporting statistics and blaming it on the biker. Why the MOT can't put some advertisement on TV to make poeple aware of bikers and pedestrians to show how cars should NOT turn and how they should give way to bikers and pedestrians? It's not happening.

Culture? Definitely culture pays a role. People are not educated either. So many parents walk their kids across the road by red light or cross the road is strange way. (In Europe you learn you should cross the way using the least distance possible).

Education? Here, people don’t even look left and right before they cross. Lack of traffic education is part of the problem also. Even in Europe bikers must point their arm into the turning direction. Do Taiwan junior high schools educate biking and traffic laws? I wonder.

Traffic laws? These may work in one country may not work somewhere else. For example in Europe a car taking a right turn the driver must look in the mirrors and give way to anyone going straight be in a motorcycles, biker or pedestrian. Is that enforced in Taiwan ? No. You just get cut off.

Behavior ? In Taipei everything in rush. No one has time and every square centimeter is used. No one will allow you any space on the road. And behavior like in this article (hopefully an exception) does not encourage to point out to car drivers their bad behavior. Would you dare to challenge any driver, even he drives completely insane, then get punished twice by assault? Those insane drivers are often, yes, insane.. so, be careful. “don’t see, don’t look and don’t talk" might better while we hope MOT start to sort out the true root causes and systemic solutions.

Conclusion: So where bikers need to go? Do bikers need to stay twisting an turning around pedestrians (which complaints are rising) or around the illegally parked cars, taxis vans and the buses which are always in such a hurry to pick up people so they cut off bikers which need to stop every 50 to 100 meters for those buses. There are so many parent and grandparents riding their kids to school. In the small lane where I live, the number of parked bikers has exploded and are more than motorcycles. (which is a good thing actually), however it leaves less room for motorcycles and the chaos is only increasing. Now when driving your car you need to start looking out more and more for parked motorcycles and bikes that are sticking out and potentially damage cars.

The Taipei roads belong to motorbikes and cars, the sidewalk to pedestrians. Bicycles fall somewhere in between (in the big gap) and after so many years, the MOT still hasn't really figure it out how to approach a solid solution the infrastructure and change of behavior of the drivers of engine driven vehicles.

Note: MOT = Ministry Of Transportation

Dangerous moves

These are the two most annoying movements by car drivers you will daily experience one or more times per day on the bike in Taipei.

First is he “Catch Up and Turn”. Many drivers like to try to "beat" the biker and turn before the biker even if the biker already started to pass the crossing. Specially Taxi’s and those small blue pick-up trucks like to do this, because they are in such incredible hurry.

The second one is the “Cut off and pick up” movement. Most of the time these are done by taxi’s and buses. (because they pick up more people, eh) but recently I have been experiencing this by some regular car drivers also. This behavior shows the incredible lack of respect for bikers.

P.S: If you are a car driver, please don’t train these movement since they are incredible dangerous and you definitely will get some angry face or noise feedback back from bikers.

Enforcement without regulation

Article here

Enforcement without Regulation. MOTC is just HARASSING and scaring the population with penalties while MOT does not have a solid solution for the chaos exists. Very typical for MOTC's attitude. I bought my racks years ago. Was there an approval label on it? Ofcourse not ? Where to get it? Do I now have to pay for testing of my rack to get such label? What is the regulation now? For most rack is is almost impossible to avoid blocking the car license plate. Every car is different MOT should be thinking this through a bit more. For example, people can't get a FREE 3rd license plate to put on their rack or alow them to paste the car number on their rack. And an even more important problem with racks are lights. Most racks block the car rear lights. Again, the same story, MOT is focusing on penalties and forget to look at the big picture of safety issues.

Is this blog biased?

Yes, could be. But for sure we need something to balance the power of engine enabled vehicle drivers and the lack of MOT honest support for bikers and the Taipei bike infrastructre.