Never saw this one coming when I signed up for the ECF job. Taipei Cycle Show, the world’s biggest bike show – apparently thousands of metres of bicycling bling, the one nobody in the trade can afford to miss. I’m here because most of ECF’s sponsors are here, so I will be on best behaviour for the rest of the week. But I’ve just got here, its Monday afternoon and the blasted hotel won’t let me in to my room until 6. So of course I’ve been for a walk seeking first impressions and cycling. Now I have time to post a few first impressions from the lobby before I get the room.
I came in to the city on public transport. Most of the western looking people at the airport set off for the taxi rank and its extensive queue. I have a hotel to the north of the city and a little bit of research showed I could combine bus and metro – called the MRT here. So I paid about 5 Euros to get to town, only westerner on the bus, made me feel a bit more like an authentic traveller. However the bus did hit a real traffic jam on the route to the city which gave me a birds-eye view of a massive aerial construction project running out to the airport. I hope it’s the extension of the MRT in have read about, I’d hate to see a modern city not learning the lesson and still trying to build freeways to solve congestion. At the moment its really weird, there are these odd disconnected shapes on the skyline which made me come over all Blade Runner, their shape doesn’t sit right on the eye.
Hardly saw a single cyclist as we drove through the city, but then the first one was a classic little old Chinese lady on a cargo trike. Yippee – if little old ladies haven’t been driven off the roads then life is OK – we do not despair.
And it is pretty cycle friendly out here by the hotel near Jiannan Road station. Immediately outside the station a good selection of bikes parked.
And as soon as I got 100 metres from the hotel door on my walk I came across my first virtually new bike lane, and even better a large road sign
saying “Bikeway”. 5 minutes later and I was in a wide windswept park by the river and despite the muggy rainfall a small but steady stream of cyclists were out getting some exercise on a leisure route that looks like it goes a few miles. Mixture of rider – all male – from older chaps on city bikes to young blokes in lycra on some serious kit.
Some nice touches on the cycle lanes too. Every property exit has its own personal give way sign painted on the tarmac – now wouldn’t we like some of that back home.
Having sated my initial desire to get in touch with my inner cyclist I then did the only thing a cyclist can really do on a damp muggy afternoon when you are not riding. Tea and cake of course. I was dismayed to see the ubiquitous Starbucks and McDonalds but then I found a tea house serving proper Chinese teas and food make with tea flavours. Not quite sure about the tea flavoured dried tomato, I’m sure that is an acquired taste but I enjoyed the freshness of the tea and mousse cake enormously. I’m going to enjoy this.
When I have recovered from 24 hours without sleep I’ll have to track down a hire bike, got to go out to the show to register so may as well ride if I can.
More on bike shows tomorrow.