Written by Jonathan Morales (Colgate University) Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Summer 2017
I never imagined that I would often willingly choose to ride a bike home in 95 degree weather while in Taiwan. Taipei is a large and beautiful city. Growing up in New York City, I really love the tall and unique buildings, the crowded streets, and the various social interactions that come from any modern day metropolis. I really appreciate everything that makes Taipei unique, especially the landmark skyscraper, Taipei 101. With cities being large, people need a way to get around, and Taipei has a few options. Like any other city, there’s public transportation consisting of buses and a subway system. The buses brake really hard, and often times grabbing onto something with one hand probably won’t be enough; you’re going to have to use both! The subway system is very clean, and the social behavior is very organized, from having people lining up to enter the subway cars, to the left side of the escalator always being open for those who want to walk and not wait. Any popular street always has available taxis with drivers who love talking to foreigners who are trying to improve their Chinese! A cab ride is definitely a quick and comfortable way of getting around, and sharing one with others will make it very cheap. However, my favorite way of getting around Taipei is YouBike.
YouBike is a public bike rental service that has automated parking stations that anyone could rent a bike from. These rental stations can be found by subway station as well as many others. I can get home from school and my internship for only $5 NTD, which is only $0.16! My main incentive to ride YouBike isn’t the price, but the experience of being able to travel and view longer distances in a shorter period of time. There is only so much you could see from a bus or taxi, and there’s no scenery to look at in the subway! National Taipei University (NTU) is where my Chinese classes are taught, and the campus is very large. Taipei’s tropical climate allows the campus to have many beautiful palm trees which make riding down the main roads really refreshing.
The sidewalks and bike lanes of Taipei are honestly very hectic. Although Taipei has a very prominent biking culture, many pedestrians don’t pay much attention to those on bikes. Luckily, every YouBike comes with a bell to let people know that a bicyclist is trying to pass by. Larger roads also have very convenient bike lanes! Some of the more daring Taiwanese citizens like to ride bikes on the roads, however, I wouldn’t dare! Sometimes there are moped riders on the sidewalks but most of them prefer the roads. I ride YouBikes every day, and twice I’ve had moped drivers appear in front of me on the bike lanes and they would stop moving, causing me to use my bike brakes for a full stop! Even after I stop, they didn’t notice I was behind them until I moved around them! Only when I ride a bike on Taiwanese streets do I ever truly experience being in an “urban jungle.” My favorite place to ride bikes is easily a very wide road named Xinyi Anhe, and it is a road that goes right to Taipei 101. Whether I am riding home from school or my internship, I will always take this road because it is the most convenient, and the view is amazing! Taipei 101 is beautiful, and it’s honestly a very distracting sight for when I’m riding my YouBike down the sidewalk! I may be a foreigner, but if everyone is riding bikes, then I should too! As we say in English, when in Rome, do as romans do, but as they say in Chinese, 入乡随俗. However, Taiwanese people are very capable of riding bikes in the rain with open umbrellas in one of their hands, and I don’t think I can do that just yet!!