My fifth time here in Taipei and the start of a great 10 days, Velo-city Global and Taipei Cycle Show back to back. It was a gleam of an idea four years ago, now it is a reality.
But before the rush kicks off I needed to shake off a bit of jet-lag today so I grabbed a Youbike and went for a spin. And while I was out there I was reminded almost symbolically of a cycling magic trick that Taipei pulls off every time I am here.
I have written before that cycling in Taipei is not for the faint-hearted. You can stick to pavements and a number of bike lanes in some districts and I get used to finding my way if I am patient at the interminable traffic lights.
And I like it when I end up down the narrow streets and markets, they are the character of the city.
But then, tucked away just behind a row of houses and a few shops is a gate. In some cases a fortified gate, but today a rabbit hole into the other Taipei.
Just one metre of concrete and steel and on the other side
to the right
and to the left
I just pop out into the Taipei riverside cycle paths and I have access to over 150 kilometres of quiet, peaceful, separated cycle routes. And as today is cold, wet and windy it is almost deserted. Muffled noise from traffic filters over the high typhoon protection walls, but it is far away from the occasional riders and joggers.
The structures are huge, according to the scale by one of the gates the walls protect from a typhoon or tsunami up to ten metres above the normal river level.
On the rides I have done one side of the banks is always soft landscaping, often in the form of reed beds, grassland or parks. I think this is also a form of protection, but it also helps give an air of tranquility and a touch of green, even if some stretches are horrible industrial concrete structures on the other side.
I just pottered around for an hour or so today before I dropped back into the bustle of the city and back to the hotel, refreshed.
Back out of Alice’s rabbit hole. Or was it the wardrobe to Narnia? It was another reality on the riverside cycle paths of Taipei. A unique and remarkable cycling facility.