A YouBike is a truly wonderful thing.
Despite Taipei’s extensive public transportation system, sometimes it is simply not enough. Perhaps the class you are running late to is a ten-minute walk from the MRT station. Maybe the buses on a certain route run too far and few between. Or sometimes it is just that the alleys are a little too narrow for public transportation to get you where you need to be. In cases such as this, a bicycle comes in handy. Now, for me at least, the idea of buying or renting a bike for only a few months was a daunting and potentially expensive one. Luckily, I found a solution waiting for me outside of every MRT station and quite a few places in between: YouBikes.
All YouBikes are equipped with stands and baskets, making them extra convenient when running errands
YouBikes comprise a short-term bicycle sharing system that operates all throughout Taipei. Upon finding a YouBike station, you simply scan your Easycard (a type of metro card) to unlock the bike and get peddling. You are charged by the minute and tasked with returning the bike to a YouBike station when you are done. Luckily, they can be easily found throughout the city. During my stay so far in Taipei, thanks in part to the fact that the first 30 minutes are free given my monthly Easycard pass, YouBikes are one of those things that I use multiple times a day.
Cycling in Taiwan, of course, is bound to be a little different than cycling back home. Beyond the multitude of traffic jams and rampant swarms of motorbikes, there are also simply different rules. In my cycling escapades thus far, I have adopted a firm policy of mirroring the behavior of the cycling elderly that can be found all throughout Taipei. Thus, streets are to be avoided, the bell is to be cautiously used, and weaving your way through crowds is perfectly acceptable. Indeed, the roads are generally only to be ridden on when parked motorcycles completely obscure the sidewalk.
Due to the dual use of sidewalks as both a walking path and a parking lot, you can sometimes get trapped when it fills up
YouBikes have been an indispensable part of my life here. Beyond the simple utility of saving me from being late to class or whisking me off to a Family Mart in the dead of night to grab some study snacks, they have also given me freedom. They have allowed me to explore. If I am unable to sleep at night or feeling claustrophobic or even just want to feel the wind in my hair, I can rent a YouBike for a while. I can find somewhere in the city to escape to. Be it Taipei 101 at midnight, a riverside pedal in the evening, or dashing to class in the late afternoon, the reasons to make use of a YouBike are endless. For me, the last step in full utilization is learning to ride while holding an umbrella in the rain.
The only issue with YouBikes is how popular they are. There is no worse feeling than running late to class and finding no bikes in the station.