Life in the Fast Lane


Cycling in Taipei

By 7:32 AM , , , , , , , , , , ,

Some of my many frustrations as a Manileña who loves to bike include not having wide enough sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists; not having enough and truly dedicated lanes for cycling; drivers (of private and public vehicles) being inconsiderate of and simply not caring about what cyclists have to go through — among the following: avoiding potholes, trash, and obstructions on the road, finding whatever space is available, contending with honking vehicles... the list goes on.

Which is why it is truly refreshing for me to visit countries and cities that not only respect cyclists, but encourage cycling. Taipei (and Taiwan as a whole) is one of them.

Photo from here.

With their wide roads and huge sidewalks within the city, as well as their scenic views when you start making your way toward their more rural areas, it's no wonder that people come to Taiwan just to bike.

Photo from here.

I wish I could say I did a whole lot of biking when I was there around two weeks ago, but I didn't. Unfortunately, I haven't been given the green light to bike just yet, but I was able to observe (and become a fan of) the public bike system of Taipei. 

Based on my observations, there are two major players of this aforementioned system (it goes without saying that this is apart from people's own/personal bikes), and each one also has its own smartphone app.

The first one is YouBike. Their bikes are easy to spot from several hundred meters away. All YouBikes are bright orange with yellow rear tire covers. 

Most YouBikes are found at the intersection of streets, near MRTs and bus stations, and near public parks. One needs to register first via the app, and once this is done, payment is made by scanning one's Easy Card (which I discussed towards the end of this blog entry) on the bike terminal scanner. Returning the bike is done the same way. Using a YouBike is quite cheap; for your first 30 minutes, it costs NTD 10 and the longer you use the bike, the price increases incrementally; but if you were to ask me, I wouldn't mind. I'd get to where I needed to be, and I would a decent workout in.

While it's pricier than its competitor (more on this later), based on what I saw, there were more YouBikes available compared to the alternative. It's incredibly easy to rent and return a YouBike based on the availability and accessibility of these bikes and bike stations.

Screenshot from here.

Photo credit: my sister.

The other service is called oBike. This one is more reliant on its smartphone app. To the untrained eye, an oBike looks like any other commuter bike, but it has certain details that brand it accordingly. Just look for yellow-orange decals and details on these kinds of silver bikes.

Photo from here.

To use an oBike, one has to download their app, use it to locate the nearest available oBike, scan the QR code on the bike terminal to unlock the bike, then manually lock in the bike when you're done. For your first hour, you only need to pay NTD 8 (as opposed to YouBike's NTD 10 for 30 minutes). It's really cheap, and you can go on much longer rides while paying much less than you would for its competitor.

Screenshot from here.

Photo credit: my sister.

I dream of the day when Metro Manila will be as bike-friendly in terms of space, respect for cyclists, safety, and easy access (I'm pretty sure even the most locked-in bikes could be stolen in Manila, LOL). I genuinely hope to see all these happen within my lifetime.

But for now, I will continue to enjoy observing and learning from our Asian neighbors, and look forward to going back to Taiwan. Hopefully, the next time I visit, I'll be able to spend a good amount of time on two wheels.

For those considering joining a Taiwan cycling tour, or bringing their bikes to Taiwan to create their own cycling agenda, this article is really helpful.

And for those who want to try riding a public bike as an alternative to the MRT or bus while in Taipei, I hope this blog entry of mine proves to be useful.

Happy riding!

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