Caged birds don’t fly – the pavement cyclists of Taipei


This gallery contains 10 photos.

This is just a short thought piece about my experiences and observations of institutionalised pavement (sidewalk) cycling in Taipei. Because I was staying in a different part of the city on this year’s trip to the Taipei Cycle Show and … Continue reading

Message to myself – “do not despair”


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Close followers of this blog will perhaps have noted that my “first day” blog post from Taipei Cycle Show was nearly 12 days ago and there has been nothing since. Yes, there were some memorable experiences on the following days … Continue reading

Where might Mayor Ko of Taipei City sit in a league table for “cycling mayors”?


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At a Velo-city Taipei conference full of colourful characters there is little doubt that one of them almost stole the show, mostly by not being there. Elections for city mayors can occasionally throw up some characters who can be described … Continue reading

Velo-city Taipei cycle parade – the gallery (And the wedding!)


This gallery contains 10 photos.

A week of intensive discussion about the global future of cycling is coming to an end. Visionaries, technicians, academics, business leaders – they were all here. But of course what everybody loves is a good photo moment and the annual … Continue reading

Taipei’s cycling fairy story – through the wardrobe to Narnia, or down Alice’s rabbit hole?


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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 … Continue reading

Taiwan – Taipei and Taichung rides with the Formosa Lohas Cycling Association


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I promised I would flesh out my two earlier posts about riding in Taiwan with a bit more of the story of the rides. This was a special opportunity for me because despite this being my fourth trip to Taiwan … Continue reading

Eating and cycling combined in Taiwan – put it on your culinary bucket list


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It is going to be very hard in the next few blog posts to not just turn this into”101 reasons why you should visit Taiwan in 2016.” We have our major international cycling conference there in March 2016 so there … Continue reading

Brilliant day’s cycling in Taiwan – brief report

Taiwan Bike tour

There will be time for better edited, clearer photos.

There will be more time for ride and route information.

And there will be special thanks to my friends at the Formosa Lohas Cycling Association who delivered me a great day cycling today. Over 140 km south from Taipei to the smallish town of Dongshi near the bigger city of Taichung.

But as I sit in my hotel room tonight I can reflect on great company:

FLCA ride taiwan

Super riding and some great views;

reservoir view Taiwan cycle tour

Use of a very tasty titanium road bike that I really would like to own;

Phil's bike

Riding through the strawberry harvest (in March);

Strawberry harvest taiwan

But above all else…….. the food.

I must have sampled thirty dishes today, most of which I have never tried before. At some point I will try an inventory but I will just capture a touch of the variety with the Hakka style hot pot, the excellent steamed meatball in a dumpling and the incredibly weird drinkable jelly tea.

Traditional Hakka style hot pot Taiwan

Steamed dumpling meatball Taiwan


Wierd jelly drink Taiwan

No danger of losing any weight on this tour.

And tomorrow I am told we hit the mountains for real. As if my legs don’t ache enough.


Now our bikes have got an obesity problem. Fat bikes the trend at Taipei Cycle Show 2014

Photo by Kevin Mayne

When I go to the big bike shows I try to have a wander round and see if there are any trends that catch my eye. After a while the sea of alloy and carbon can become overwhelming so the eye is only drawn to superb design or something quirky.

Cargo trailer At this year’s Taipei Cycle Show I was actually on the lookout for signs that the growing interest in cargo bikes in Europe might be backed up by the companies who make so many of the elements of our bikes. With the Asian heritage for carrying loads by bike I always believe Taipei should be a good place for research. However this year I was almost completely disappointed apart for two items in the Design Awards section – a small trailer and a stylish pedelec (IZIP E3 Metro) with load carrying front and rear.

Photo Kevin Mayne


There was also a very cute Louis Garneau bike with basket which I liked.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

However I was struck by one trend that is massive in every dimension. While last year the fat bike was a novelty on a few stands this year they were absolutely everywhere, it appears that the Taiwanese manufacturers think this is one of the trends their US and European importers are going to run with for a while so many had designs on show to prove they could meet the demand.

Taipei Cycle Show

Photo by Kevin MayneA have read some reviews and stories about fat bikes and I can clearly see the attraction in the countries where snow lies feet deep for months on end, or if you have a convenient sandy desert or beach to hand. They would be fantastic to hire for a fun day out at a bike park. But a mainstream part of the market? Not convinced.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that fat bikes are largely created to meet Rule 12 of the Velominati, that is to say

“The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. “

A bike that satisfies the need for the cyclist who has everything? Now that might work.

Taipei Cycle Show


Wet, steamy, green, welcoming. It must be the 2014 Taipei cycling experience

Photo Kevin Mayne

I managed to get out for three decent bike rides on this year’s visit to Taipei, however it was a very different experience to last year. The defining factor this year was water. The downpours which hit us on almost every day could certainly have killed off my enthusiasm, but instead provided a backdrop to this year’s explorations. In the previous two years I didn’t get up into the forested hills that sweep down into the city on all sides and are the product of all that rain. They go up over 1000 metres from sea level within the city boundaries and apparently cover almost half the land area which must make it one of the hilliest and greenest capital cities in the world.

Through this year’s rides I became more aware of how this landscape links with the city and how much the residents value green space and plants which burst into life in the warmth and humidity of the island. And my very final stop on the trip was the steamiest of all – the hot springs district of Beitou which deserves not only a comment as a ride destination but will get a small post of its own to follow this one.

tern social 2014

Not all things are publishable however. Our friends from Tern Bicycles put on their Thursday social ride again this year. It was social. It was a ride. As ever their bikes are comfortable and smart with some nice features. But it hammered down with rain. I have a lot of photos that look rather too much like this, and very few that look like the one below,

Tern social Taipei

Their Facebook page has a much better selection, but you get the story. But good company and a bike ride are always highlights in the Idonotdespair world, so I enjoyed it and as ever the clothes dried out. Eventually.Thanks to the Tern team.

My two other excursions were better for sharing and learning about Taipei.

Monday Youbike Bimble

Youbikes of TaipeiA brief gap in the showers before the Taipei Cycle Show allowed me to grab a Youbike and set off from my hotel. Last year I experienced the city and the riverside cycle paths so my ambition this time was to try and get into the hills I could see from my window.

Xinyi district is mostly known to travellers as the administrative centre, shopping and property hot spot of Taipei, focussed around the City Hall and Taipei 101, for several years the world’s tallest building and an icon of Taipei. The area has modern malls, offices and busy roads. There are cycle lanes and Youbikes too, which is handy.

Taipei 101 and cycle paths

Xinyi district TaipeiBut within just a very short distance by bike the very new developments end and disappear into a maze of residential alleys and back streets which rear up into the steep slopes and verdant forest of the hills. Out of curiosity I heaved myself up some of these steep ramps to the bemusement of the residents who were clearly not used to seeing tourists round here. There are also a number of waymarked and well signed walking trails that were leading up to the mountain tops which showed a considerable local demand for enjoying these green spaces. The Fuyang Eco Park was busy with walkers and joggers, plus it gave me the backdrop to my lovely moment with a Grandfather teaching his granddaughter to ride (see earlier post)

What immediately caught my eye is the way the buildings seem to just merge into the hills, only stopping at the steepest of overhangs.

Houses on hills Taipei

Taipei hillside houses

Plants and houses Taipei

And not only is the greenery outside, there is clearly a passion for plants with every balcony and doorway having a range of healthy looking plants in pots. Where there was a flat spot these would often be flourishing vegetable patches or in the middle class gardens there were beautiful flashes of colour from decorative foliage and flowers.

Gardens of Taipei Taipei Gardens

It is such mixture in a small area. Small industrial plots, temples, shacks, apartment blocks and expensive villas catering for all levels of society. Given a different bike and a stronger constitution I might have climbed more of the side streets, but a three hour bimble around the different areas was full of variety.

The traffic was also well behaved too, the streets are narrow and busy which has a traffic calming effect which I appreciated.

Cycling Taipei alleys



Saturday touring ride.

My second memorable ride was on Saturday, the day we left. We were invited out by our new friends at Formosa Lohas Cycling Association to come and see how they organise their touring rides. The club is relatively new but is making strong progress with a mix of promotional activities for cycling, especially based on cycle touring, events and cycling education for children. As my regular readers know I am very fond of cycling clubs and within minutes of chatting to Development Director Demi Huang and her colleagues it was immediately clear that we were kindred spirits, chatting away about rides, routes and advocacy for ages.

Formosa Lohas Cycling Association and ECF

Demi offered us a ride with some of the club’s experienced Tour Guides and we suggested a half day starting in Taipei so that we could also pack our bags and prepare for departure. To be honest, the omens were not good because the rain just bucketed down all morning, but at least it wasn’t cold so Bernhard and I were up for the ride.

Cycle route map TaipeiGathering point for a small but hardy group was down on the riverside cycle path where we were kitted out with two nice sporty looking machines with straight bars. Guide James explained our route, a loop of about 20km around the river banks, then up to “Hell Valley” and the Beitou Springs area. The convenient planning board shows that we were to go out into the teeth of the rainstorm and then take a more sheltered line up to Beitou.

The opening kilometres were certainly exposed because our route was not down at water level like other sections of the path that I rode last year. This section sits right up on top of the typhoon defences and looked down on the homes and businesses behind the wall. The views were expansive, but decidedly murky. Clearly Bernhard was at home, this could almost be a Dutch dyke path.

Riverside cycle route Taipei

Beyond the walls were mud flats and reed beds that are now popular for bird watching. It was hard to imagine our hosts description of the rivers as the centre for trade with waterside wharves everywhere. Today it is a world closed off from the city.

Once round the confluence of the two rivers we had the wind behind and swept towards a very impressive suspension style bridge. We were struck by the cycle ramps, huge cycle lanes and segregated sections for bikes, scooters and cars.

Taipei cycle path and bridges Suspension bridge Taipei Bikes bridge and clouds Taipei

The view from the bridge was interesting too, it gave an impression of how committed the local authorities are to high quality facilities along these river paths. We could see a fun mountain bike park already completed and under construction a water filled park being landscaped to fit the land space between typhoon defence and river. Clever use of buffer land which will also improve flooding resilience. Now if only other countries were that sensible.

mountain bike track in Taipei New riverside park in Taipei

Rice paddy field and vegetable garden TaipeiThe benefits of local guides were apparent when we swung away from the river bank and headed north through a series of embankments and small roads. Our guides called this “our secret route” and it was a treasure. Almost vehicle free but taking us through something like a garden zone of rice fields and market gardens cutting right into the heart of the city. Several people I have talked to spontaneously started talking about the Taiwanese love of fresh fruit and vegetables and the expertise of their farmers, certainly the quality of the fruit and veg at meal times is outstanding. We were rewarded with herons and cranes foraging in the rice fields as we passed, oblivious to our presence.

Paddy fields with white birds Taipei

It was almost a shock to pop out of the quiet lanes into urban hustle but we had been brought almost to the heart of Beitou by our guides. A gentle climb took us up to a range of sights in this popular visitor area.

The true finish of our ride was the thermal valley itself, which was a mass of steam and smells of sulphur where the hot water gushes up from the volcanic rock at a temperature of almost 90 degrees. All around us streams carried away hot water to be piped into the hotels and bath houses which have been a feature of the area since Japanese occupation from 1895-1945. The main bath house, now a museum, was built in 1913.

Beitou Thermal valley

Our day finished with steaming hot baths in a hot springs hotel and a delicious meal with our guides, but more of that in my next post.

For now let me just say that once again the friendliness and hospitality of our Taiwanese hosts was unbeatable. The Formosa Lohas guides were knowledgeable and courteous cycling guides and I am absolutely sure that one of their multi-day rides around Taiwan would be a great holiday. James was clearly an experienced leader and Bike Lin (yes that is his name) is the author of two well-regarded tour guides about cycling in Taiwan so I am not surprised they are getting more and more enquiries from around the world. They are going to be popular and welcomed members of the ECF cycling family too.

In summary – another week in Taipei which turned out to be far more than rooms full of bikes on show. Increasingly the international travel media is saying that cycling in Taipei is one of the country’s visitor highlights. I am not going to disagree.

Velo-city Global: Taipei on the rise

A copy of an article I have just written for the ECF web site.

Original article here with better formatting

Cycling Taipei riverside pathsThe Velo-city Global series of cycling conferences took a big step forward last Friday, 7th March 2014. As the countdown for Velo-city Global 2014 in Adelaide began, ECF’s managing team traveled to Taipei to attend the first workshop leading up to the next Velo-city Global in 2016. ECF Director of Development, Kevin Mayne, explains how the Velo-city series can transform Taipei, promote inter-city exchange and push for a holistic improvement in cycling conditions. 
ECF President Manfred Neun

ECF President Manfred Neun

The first workshop in Taipei was a unanimous success.  As ECF President Manfred Neun pointed out: “Our new partners in Taipei are not only keen to develop cycling in their city but they have shown they want to work with cities everywhere. Each Velo-city conference benefits from being part of a family, I have talked to many people who say they are afraid to miss one because the content is evolving so fast. The Taipei delegation to Adelaide will now be part of that strong momentum.”

It certainly appears that Adelaide and Taipei will have a lot to talk about together and to share with colleagues from around the globe. Both are “climber cities” in cycling terms, working their way up from relatively low mode shares to establish cycling as mainstream mode of transport. However both have developed a strong leisure and sport cycling base in recent years that gives encouragement that there is a pent up demand for cycling.

Taipei’s strengths showed at the workshop

Collaboration: At this first event the city already attracted support from the Commissioners for Transport for the six largest cities in Taiwan, representing a population of over 16 million people. ECF’s Manfred Neun set out a ten point cycling agenda for them to consider over the next two years which could return the human dimension to transport in any city. Also speaking was Lloyd Wright from the Asian Development Bank giving a strong regional perspective and two well-known Taiwanese figures from ECF’s academic network “Scientists for Cycling” Professors Jason Chang of National Taiwan University and Hsin Wen Chang of Chung Hua University.

ECF Secretary General and Velo-city series Director Bernhard Ensink with Jason Chang Hsin and Wen Chang from the cities panel

ECF Secretary General and Velo-city series Director Bernhard Ensink with Jason Chang Hsin and Wen Chang from the cities panel

Commitment: This workshop was only the first in a series of events in the two year run up to Velo-city 2016. It was launched by the Mayor Hau Lung-Bin and well backed by his team and the large cities. The city also seems determined to show what it can do in the transport sector as it already has a very successful mass Rapid Transit (MRT or metro) and has achieved what few others have done in providing a single ticketing system for all its public transport including the fast growing Youbike public bike sharing system. These were political commitments driven from the top.
Strong political will: This workshop and many more to come are launched by Mayor Hau Lung-Bin and well backed by his team and the large cities

Strong political will: This workshop and many more to come are launched by Mayor Hau Lung-Bin and well backed by his team and the large cities

Industry leaders push for more leisure cycling…

Collaboration and commitment also sum up some of the cycling achievements of Taipei and indeed the whole of Taiwan in recent years. Up to 10 years ago the flagship of Taiwanese cycling was its world leading bicycle manufacturing sector but industry figures recognised that a lack of a cycling culture in home markets was undermining their capacity to “learn by doing”.

The first developments were partnerships in leisure and tourism with a mix of cycle touring routes, riverside cycle paths, mass participation rides and visible leadership by the top companies such as Giant. All this was a close collaboration with cities, tourism authorities and other public bodies. A national cycling master plan was created to support this change.

…but Velo-city is a opportunity to crystallize measures and coordinate change

Daily cycling is however a very different challenge but it is now one that the six cities seem committed to take on board with Taipei and the largest city of the south Kaohsiung in the vanguard.

The usual concerns of budget, space and safety were all highlighted at the workshop. They are all facing a real challenge of where to put their cycling infrastructure because the instinct is to grab space from the pavements and share space with pedestrians. In many places the sidewalks are broad enough to accommodate cycle paths but there is some way to go in public education for it to succeed.

Taipei cycling achievements

-In the last year cycling mode share in Taipei is up 30% to 5.5%, a figure many European capital cities still cannot match.

-The Youbike bike sharing is hitting usage figure that match with the world’s best, over 10 uses per bike per day.

-Almost uniquely for a low mode share city the cycling revolution in Taipei is female. Elsewhere in the world climber cities struggle to attract women cyclists until they have created safe segregated cycle networks. In Taipei women are 50% of the cycling population and a majority of Youbike users.

-Noticeably helmet wearing levels are low. This suggests a younger generation of women don’t feel intimidated as they make cycling part of their daily lives. Middle aged men in lycra (MAMILS) they are not.

From Taipei to Adelaide: Infrastructure and other hot trends in cycling policy

What has pushed their thinking toward using pavements is not just cars. Like so many other Asian cities -and even some European ones- it is scooter culture that has been the response of the population to both congestion and limited incomes. On Taipei’s streets this is a highly challenging environment for the nervous cyclist. ECF gently encouraged our hosts to be bolder and think about taking space from cars, not pedestrians.

lady cyclist and scootersThe mix of fast moving traffic on broad streets presents the other lesson that Taipei will want to learn and share with cities all over the world – junction design for cyclists. The latest thinking in infrastructure development is always a hot topic at Velo-city, Adelaide will just be the next step in an ongoing debate. In Taipei now most cyclists cross with pedestrians using the walk signals at traffic lights but the conflicts and accidents remain high. In ECF’s presentations and other speakers’ comments the successes of the Netherlands, Copenhagen and New York were mentioned as case studies for comparison

Our trip to Taipei was summed up by ECF’s Secretary General who is also Velo-city Series DirectorBernhard Ensink said “Velo-city series is in good hands, we have groups of cities with strong ambitions and distinct identities in Adelaide, Nantes and Taipei. Our new partner Taipei is already thinking hard about its agenda and will send a strong delegation to Adelaide. I am really looking forward to working with them all.”

Story of Taipei Week – the rise and rise of Youbike

Xiangyyun Road Taipei

End of a another Taipei Cycle Show week and a great kick off for the Velo-city conference for Taipei 2016.

Lots of photos and contacts to talk about.

But if there is a theme of the week it is the extraordinary growth of the public bike share scheme Youbike (or U-bike) which seems to be liberating the city’s citizens. A 30% growth in cycling appears to have rocketing Youbike use at its heart. Not least because they have cracked combined ticketing with metro and bus services, the ultimate in convenience. A lot of cities could learn from that.

I may have stretched the “rise” a bit much by trying to haul one up one of the forest covered mountains that cover almost a third of the city. My knees and back rebelled, because the gears are not really aimed at scaling the hillsides, but the views were worth the pain, and the walking.

Photo Kevin Mayne

More updates next week.

Learning to ride your bike at the park with Grandad. A rite of passage the world over

Day 1 of my annual trip to Taipei needs a bike ride to reorient myself and clear the jet lag. But of all the sights, smells and sounds of the ride my memory is captured by a little girl and her grandad, grabbing the space at the side of a small park to go through the rite of passage we have all shared.

Guided by a caring hand.

Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne

Getting up after the fall.

Photo Kevin Mayne

And then she goes.

Photo Kevin Mayne

It is a truth the world over.  You never forget your first bike ride. She didn’t stop smiling, and neither have I since. In this busy city it was a quiet moment of joy to be shared.