Return of the Bicycle Kingdom? How pavement cycling is transforming Taipei

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Return of the Bicycle Kingdom? How pavement cycling is transforming Taipei
A cyclist and her passenger stick to the pavement, while scooters rule the road
Return of the Bicycle Kingdom? How pavement cycling is transforming Taipei
A cyclist and her passenger stick to the pavement, while scooters rule the road

Taiwan’s capital – notorious for elevated highways and swarms of scooters – is in the early stages of a cycle revolution powered by legalised sidewalk cycling and a bike-share scheme where more than half of users are women

A swarm of scooters forms at the head of a queue of traffic waiting for the lights to change. Visors down, engines revving, they jockey for position ahead of the cars, trucks and buses on a specially marked patch of tarmac reserved for cyclists in many parts of the world.

The buzz rises to a high-pitched crescendo and, as the lights turn green, they shoot off. A minute later the lights change and the process begins again. Taipei is home to almost one million scooters – as well as 2.7 million people. Like many other large Asian cities, the roads here are seen as no place for cyclists.

But in the capital of Taiwan – an island once known as “the Bicycle Kingdom” – the authorities have taken the unusual step of legalising cycling on 240 miles of city centre pavement. Taipei is also tripling its network of cycle lanes to cover 120 miles over the next three years – although these too are strips of painted sidewalk taken from pedestrians.

Strange as it may seem, it works. Riding on the pavement feels 100% safe – for cyclists at least – and many of the riders are women, pedalling along at a leisurely pace and with hardly a helmet in sight. Picking your way through the city-centre pedestrians during rush hour may be pretty impossible, but in general the numbers are encouraging: whereas six or seven years ago few cyclists were to be seen in the city, now around 5% of journeys are taken by bike. That’s around double the cycle modal share of London, for example, and four-times that of New York. […]

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