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.

Folding bike – seats three

Bicycle Taipei Taiwan

These diminutive machines are quite common on the streets of Taipei. I never actually saw one with the extra passenger on the back but I saw a few with a child in the front seat, unfortunately never when I had a camera to hand.

I can think of reasons why this might not pass any number of EU regulations, but is a perfect solution for a family in a small apartment.

Cycling in Taipei 2013: a roundup of the “I Do Not Despair” experience

Taiwantaipei taiwanThis post rounds up some of my experiences from a week in Taipei and it gives me the chance to bring together the thoughts of people I met and my own observations. I wrote about this a bit last year but this time there are three key differences.

Most importantly I rode a bike myself – the basis for the “Not despairing in…” series of posts on this blog. I also know that the experience of combining walking, writing and talking to activists in 12 countries in 12 months has improved my cycling observation. It is much like when I used to benchmark factories in my previous career, if you do it often enough you develop a more finely tuned sense about what is happening and you have much better references to use for judgements. The third element is that I got to do a lot more talking to people in the cycling industry and advocacy this time which gave my views better balance, on my first visit I was almost a tourist by comparison.

Taipei cycle Show taiwanI was formally in Taiwan to attend the Taipei Cycle Show and to speak at the International Bicycle Design Forum which gave itself the title “Forging Taiwan to be a Bicycling Island”. (News report here.)

After hearing the words from the conference and having my discussions with the cycling community my personal observations reinforce what the cycling world here is saying. The underlying commitment to cycling here is huge. It already had a massively successful and world leading bike industry which has been strategically planned as a key national economic interest for years.

However this was largely built on the back of a static or declining local cycling market.

The first stage of trying to address that has been largely leisure and tourism focussed. This approach that would be widely recognised in the English speaking world – something you do in your sporty clothes at the weekend or in your spare time.

This has been improving vigorously with the influence of the industry and the support of academics in tourism and economic development like Associate Professor Hsin-Wen Chang who is working in association with eight counties on their cycle tourism product.

TaiwanI really must try to get out and try some of their rural routes another time because Lonely Planet and CNN have listed Taiwanese experiences in their top ten in the world and I saw some stunning pictures. Cycle tourism holidays are growing and there are lots of “round the island” promotions and charity rides which are being used to try and build cycling lifestyles. I sampled this ambition Tern Social Taiwanjust by trying some of the extensive and well-engineered riverside cycle tracks in Taipei which now reach over 100km virtually traffic free. I was really delighted to be invited on the “Social ride” promoted by the local staff and friends of Korean folding bike specialists Tern who took a big group of us along the paths after dark. That was great fun as social rides usually are and it was complemented by the fact that the routes through the parks and the river bridges are brilliantly well lit at night.

So leisure is going in the right direction. That leaves transport.

The relative affluence and successful economy of Taiwan means that they have high levels of car use and recent massive investment in motorways and road capacity sitting alongside successful high speed rail and a mass rapid transit (MRT) in Taipei.

Taipei Scooters 1Most of the writes and bloggers online agree with the people I met.  (Example here by Carlton Reid) Transport cycling in Taipei has been neglected, there is a lack of cycling infrastructure except cycling on the pavements and there is almost universal concern about the swarming buzzing scooters anywhere on the island. They are about 30% of traffic in Taipei, a huge proportion. The main perceived threat to cyclists is that they fly around in swarms at what seem very high speeds, all across the roads and swerving around the cars, a combined deterrence of speed and noise. The cars themselves are very scooter aware but that doesn’t stop the average driver from getting the foot to the floor on all the roads around the city, and from what I could see out in Hsin Chu and Taoyuan they are just as fast.

And this is where the contradictions start.

These road conditions and driver speed easily put Taipei on a level with somewhere like Kiev as a really cycling unfriendly city. The Invisible Visible Man did an excellent recent post about his discovery of Staten Island in New York describing similar challenges and the lack of cyclists as a result.

Therefore I would expect to see almost no cyclists whatsoever on the roads and last year I didn’t. However this year I felt I saw more riders, perhaps because I was out a bit more in daylight but I think there is a change going on.

Taiwan cycling

This was confirmed by King Liu, founder of Giant and his daughter Vicky Yang who is CEO of advocacy and promotional NGO the Cycling Lifestyle Foundation.

I can confidently say that if the driving conditions were like this in any European city I cannot imagine seeing any but the fiercest cyclists out on the streets, the fore-runners, the fixies, the messengers. However as I have already posted the

Cycling Taiwancyclists I kept seeing out on the highways were women of all ages, from the young and trendy to the “mature”. (here and here) Yes there were men but

Cyclists Taipei 5as often as not they were often the ones on the pavements.This was an unexpected result and I think it hints that there is a supressed cycling culture just waiting to burst out. King Liu said that the ambitious Youbike bicycle rental scheme had recorded a record 25,000 trips on a single day the previous week, even before they had expanded the scheme from its current base of 2,000 bikes up to the expected 5,000. Vicky confirmed my observation that a big proportion of the users were young professional women who are seeing cycling and Youbike as a lifestyle choice.

Cyclists Taipei 1

Taipei has the space to copy New York and start taking space on the streets for segregated cycle lanes and I have no doubt that this is the big political choice now facing the city. They are putting in lanes on the pavements on some streets but I cannot imagine it will be enough if the demand really takes off and it is a political soft option, not a proper solution. I said as much in my presentation, highlighting the need for a proper joined up network that is accessible to all. The quality of the riverside routes shows that the engineering knowledge is there. Giant and the China Lifestyle Foundation are equally confident that Youbike is meeting a suppressed demand that will enable Taipei to follow Paris and London by getting cycling numbers up in the urban heart while the battles for urban space continue with the city authorities.

In my comments to the press I focussed on speed because I felt so uncomfortable with my own experience on the roads and because it is a “right now” opportunity which will complement Youbike.  However in my speech to the Forum I emphasised that the city could and should see cycle lanes move from the pavements to the streets if the city and the country really wanted to forge a cycling island.

I think it will happen, cycling is too important to be neglected here and the right people are probably in position to make a difference. You can add the names of Tony Lo, Chief Executive of Giant and Robert Wu, Chairman of KMC to the mix of key players involved in the Forum. With that sort of influence from big companies working with the academics and advocates governments tend to listen. It won’t become the Netherlands overnight, no other country has even got close in forty years but there will be significant strides if they can get true political will.

I expect this will become an annual series of posts, I am quite excited about observing the changes, not least because the Taiwanese I met are such open and welcoming hosts who could talk cycling forever. What finer praise can there be for a nation?

Some personal highlights:

Riverside cycle paths by day and by night.

TaiwanRiverside Cycle Path TaipeiMap of Taipei Cycle paths Taiwan

Cycling in Taiwan

With thanks to Tern for the night ride and the very nice bike!

Tern Bicycles Social Ride Taiwan

Photo Credit Tern

 

Cyclists bridge taipei Riverside

Cyclists' bridge Taipei

What I call a Grimshaw bridge. Any high quality cycling bridge I see anywhere around the world I subconsciously attribute to John for his passion about cycling bridges and design.

The cyclists of Taipei: their Youbikes and bikesTaipei Cyclist 10

Cyclist Taipei 8 Taipei Taiwan Cyclist Taipei 7Taiwan

Well that was good!

TaiwanWonderful Taiwanese hospitality today with the family of Hsin-wen Chang, head of the Bike-Friendly Environment Planning Studio project at Chung Hua University in Hsin Chu, about 100km from Taipei. She is not only a great enthusiast for cycling but a really welcome host – what more can one say!

First a tasting of Taiwanese tea with full ceremony and then an ever expanding meal at a favourite restaurant. Plenty of dishes I have never seen or tasted before washed down with more tea and rice wine.

A great way to relax after the intensity of the Taipei Cycle Show. More to come on tea, food and cycling in Taipei when I get back and sort all the photos and stories.

Meal in Hsin Chu, Taiwan

Taking tea, Taiwan style

Can’t get your bikes to your cafe? Just copy the Tern social bike ride at Taipei Cycle Show and form a line for the escalator

Great ride out with the folding bike company Tern last night.

Several photos to come when I have collated them, but I was delighted when the challenge of getting a third floor restaurant with 50 cyclists was solved in the only realistic way.

If only all shopping centres were so accommodating.

Miramar Taipei Taiwan

I can if she can – not despairing in Taipei

TaiwanBrief update on the cycling in Taipei story.

Managed to hire a bike from one of the cycle hire stations which are positioned along the linear riverside parks which have some of the most impressive leisure cycling infrastructure I have seen. They run for miles right round the city.

TaiwanBut then I knew I was not going to be satisfied unless I actually rode in Taipei itself which meant passing through the flood defences and out into the terrifying kingdom of the scooters.

TaiwanAt this point I always believe what makes cycling possible in a new city is a role model.

And as I approached my first entry into bedlam a woman on a cargo trike pulled out slowly and sedately from a side street and instead of heading for the side of the road she boldly took up the whole lane of the busy highway.

“If she can, I can”

Another vote of thanks to the fearless cycling women of Taipei for your example.

More, lots more, to follow.

Bicycles, bicycles everywhere, nor any one to ride (*with apologies to Coleridge)

Youbike station TaipeiVery frustrating first couple of hours this morning failing to hire a bike.

Apparently to use the Taipei Youbike system I need either a Taiwanese credit card or mobile phone.

The bikes are plentiful, the weather is warm, there are cyclists about and I am hoping to cycle about rather than use the MRT every day. In fact this Youbike station was huge – and full of bikes!

Plan B is now in operation – one of the leisure bike hire stations by the river.

*The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

“Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink”

When I see a determined lady on a bike I do not despair for the future of the human race

Taipei TaiwanJust found my cyclist of the year.

Out in the middle of a multi-lane junction. With the swarms of buzzing scooters that frighten the life out of me here in Taipei.

I had to look twice because this brilliant lady with the look of steely determination was unexpectedly tucked on the end of the scooter row like a Belgian cyclo-crosser about to start a race. No hiding on pavements or waiting behind for her.

Chapeau!

Taipei Cycle Show – here we go again

Taipei Cycle Show stand

Just looked back at last year’s blog posts when I was a novice blogger and a bit overwhelmed by the Taipei Cycle Show. Where else does the President turn up to open a bike show and I get to shake the hand of Ernesto Colnago.

So much cycling bling, so much sensory overload.

Now looking forward to a great week, it will be flat out but should be time for a few photos and posts. Click the Taiwan tag below for a preview from last year and for why I am going here’s this year’s advert.

Madness Motel – the sequel

What is it with me and mad hotels this year?

Back in March In blogged about the wierd converted car park in Taipei – Madness Motel. Now thanks to Colm Ryder from Dublin Cycling Campaign sending me this photo I was reminded of the motel our Austria tour stayed at in Krems.

Cycle tour participants at the Motel in Krems

Motel - Krems AustriaThe idea must have seemed sensible to someone. The walkways outside the rooms look a bit unsafe, so we just add some industrial fencing.

I mean who says modern design is dead.

Strong suspicion that this might be related to the recent EU egg crisis – the banning of battery chicken farming may be the cause. Or is it to reassure cycle tourists about their bikes?

Taipei Cycle Show (4) – Visiting

Cycling inTaipei

I was going to blog about cycling in Taipei but I was beaten to it by another attendee at the show. Journalist Carlton Reid covered the subject in BikeBiz and CycleHub. He highlighted that Lonely Planet thinks Taiwan is one of the top 10 countries to visit for 2012, not least because “Because Taiwan is best seen on two wheels and in recent years the authorities have embraced the biking market with surprising enthusiasm, vision and (most importantly) funding. This year sees the linking of thousands of kilometres of paths, including two round-the-island routes, and a host of other cycling friendly infrastructure projects.”  Read more

The most depressing outcome of my visit to the Taipei Cycle Show was that despite acres of bike bling laid out in front of me I failed miserably to get anywhere near riding a bike so none of my impressions actually come from the saddle. However I would find hard to believe thatTaipei is a cycle touring paradise from my snapshot. However “the beautiful island” will undoubtedly be a much better cycling venue outside the city.

I missed out because there are bikes for hire but the city bike scheme was like the old Brussels hire scheme, restricted to the central business district and useless outside. It is apparently going to be expanded to 5,000 bikes soon which will see it leap up to the scale of London’s scheme.

Taipei Bike Share scheme

Taipei Bike Share scheme

The other main bike hire points are containers alongside the riverside paths which open at weekends and insist that you leave ID such as a passport, not something you can realistically part with for a week long hire.

However unlike many of the international visitors to the show at least I made sure that most of my travel was public transport and walking so I could see what was going on at street level.

Cargo bike Taipei

As a cyclist the biggest worry I would have is the complete sense of being alone, like being back in much of Europe in the 1970s when I was truly the lone weirdo. It is so easy to forget that even when we moan about conditions in so many European countries we still have the benefit of not being alone.

On the cycle paths and routes around my hotel in the north of the city the only cyclists I saw in any numbers were the lycra warriors training up the Jiannan hill in the evening. 

In the centre of the city the very few cyclists were on the roads, but in ones and twos, swamped by the volume of charging traffic. The great deterrent

Scooter box at junction, Taipei

Scooter box at junction, Taipei

in my eyes wouldn’t be the cars, it was the scooters which were so dominant they even get the advanced stop lines (cycle boxes) instead of bikes. 

I reckon the car drivers were actually quite cautious, probably because they were used to dealing with the scooters. I have always believed that this is the basis of sharing road space, worried drivers. The saying that the best road safety measure we could ever have is a big spike in the middle of the steering wheel stands true in my eyes, the scooters play that role inTaipei.

There is an excellent write up of the cycling scene in Taipei here which covers a lot of the points I learned about during my visit.

Instead of just a cycling blog pot I thought I would just wrap up some of my other impressions from the week.

The MRT

My favourite feature ofTaipei was the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). I’m used to the dark, smelly, overcrowded underground trains of Europe. The MRT is mostly overground giving the tourist a bird’s eye view of the city going about its business below.

Trains every 2 minutes, immaculately clean and polite passengers who don’t feel the need to push and shove even in the rush hour. Cheap too – about 1 Euro per trip.

And for the train geeks – they are driverless. The front of the trains is just a big window and as a passenger you can sit in the front window. I’m not entirely sure I felt at home up front, the is something vaguely reassuring about a grizzled man in a uniform with his hand on the lever at the front. Perhaps it’s Casey Jones on the telly when I was a kid.

MRT Taipei

MRT Taipei

Food and drink

One of the features of Chinese food are its regional specialities. So I was really looking forward to finding the indigenous cuisine of the island. However I learned from Tourism and Leisure Professor Hsin-Wen Chang of Chung Hua University that since 1949, when the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek were forced to leave mainland China by the Communists, they brought an army and refugees from all over the mainland with them. This means that the many regional varieties are available in restaurants and food courts and original styles were lost.

Best meal of the week was a stunning Cantonese style meal with Hsin Wen with tastes that I have never had in any Chinese restaurant, even familiar shapes like tofu had new garnishes and tastes.

Food selection Taipei

Delicacies of Taipei

I was disappointed that a lot of places only appeared to offer western food, especially out near our hotel. But I realised that we were staying near the Miramar entertainment area for young Taiwanese and around a number of “wedding hotels”. Western food is an important aspiration, as is wine which started at €60 a bottle in one place we went.

But my delight was tea.

 It is served with every meal, you sit at the table and a cup of light refreshing tea (without milk) is immediately brought to the table. This is referred to as poor tea, the lowest grade for general drinking.

The good stuff is Oolong tea, the tea ofTaiwan. Once I started reading I discovered that we should treat the tea like wine. The finest teas come from specific plantations at the top of the mountains and they attract the prices of the finest of fine wines. Also wonderful was the preparation, I went to a tea shop to buy some tea to take home and I was asked if I wanted a taste. It was a treasure to watch the shop assistant warming and testing, pouring off the initial water on the leaves and then serving the second brew to us, a process far removed from chucking a tea bag in a mug. In fact waiting for the tea was as much part of the relaxation as the drink itself.

I’m grateful to this blog that I found on my mobile phone which was great guide to tea making and buying inTaiwan.

A Taiwanese tea pot and a large tin of tea were a brilliant gift to bring home. 

People

I really enjoyed the company of the Taiwanese people I met and I was trying to work out why.

It actually came down to one thing. Unfailing good humour and warm welcomes. Smiles, and politeness seemed universal and not just because I was a tourist. I also met so may people with a really great sense of humour, it seemed to be smiles all the way, always ready with a joke even if I was being a painful  and incompetent tourist or when English clearly didn’t come easily.

I had great fun in the food shops and restaurants whenever I asked for anything and out in public spaces like the streets and public transport everyone seemed much better humoured than we are inEurope.

But I can’t get used to a society where people feel they need to wear face masks in every public space, that really was alien. I assume it was against viruses rather than air pollution because many people wear the masks indoors as well as out. However it can’t take away from the general warm welcome.

Taipei Cycle Show (3) – touched by royalty

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. I am Cycle Showed out – 11 straight hours of walking the aisles, going to the meetings, hearing the talk. The work stuff is work – that goes with the ECF day job so no commentary here. But other impressions of Taipei Cycle Show?

The bike business matters here

I cannot imagine a bike show anywhere else bringing the President of the Country to do the opening ceremony. OK, it’s the 25th anniversary, but this is a field in which Taiwan really sees itself as a world leader. Just how much of our day to day kit comes from Taiwanese providers I can’t tell, but I had just had no idea of how many big international brands were actually Taiwanese in origin.

Bling Bling

Taipei Cycle Show stand

Show bling 1

I guess I had assumed that an Asian economy and the bikes I have seen on the streets lend themselves to urban workhorses, the sort of bikes that really feel at home in the Netherlands, Germany or mainland China. If this is a big market surely it will be one of the best places to see utility bikes and cargo bikes?

Not a chance. Acres and acres of bling. Carbon fibre everywhere, multicoloured components and the vast majority showcased on lightweight dropped handlebar road bikes.Typical micro frame on show at Taipei

The exceptions are a good range of electrically assisted machines; a fantasy of multi-coloured panniers and an amazing range of micro-frames, bikes for adults built onto small designs, way smaller than your compact road racing bike. I keep thinking they are folding bikes, the layout is similar, but they are mostly rigid.

Apparently the bling serves two purposes. Firstly the show is hugely

Show bling 2

Show bling 2

important for component and frame manufacturers to sign up with international bike companies who will buy in their own specification. So on the stands you have to demonstrate that you can do high quality work no matter what your core business.

Secondly when the show opens to the public on Saturday nobody going out of their way to come to a bike show wants utilitarian bikes. Now that does feel like the shows I know. The affluent middle classes here want bikes that demonstrate their lifestyle.

There is a hill near our hotel that had a steady stream of lycra clad roadies out training until 9 yesterday evening, all in full kit.

Show bling 3

Show bling 3

As an aside

I’ve been to most of the shows in the UK since I started work in the sector and before that I went along as a consumer. I was at the Harrogate shows in the UK in the early 70s because my Dad was involved with English Schools Cycling. It was only when I saw some poor bloke in a superhero costume today that I recalled being volunteered to stomp round the Harrogate festival in a Michelin Man suit because they were one of his sponsors. I think it must be a horrible a suppressed memory that resurfaced today because of jet lag. Ouch, painful and embarrassing. I’m not sure that would improve my credibility here, thank goodness there was no Facebook in 1973.

We are not worthy.

Ok the President coming was cool. Fantastic to feel that cycling really is important. Meeting the top people from Giant and SRAM is cool. But today I met cycling royalty.

Ernesto Colnago.

If you have to ask who then it doesn’t matter. It’s a cyclist thing.

80 years old, looking as fit as a fiddle. I spoke no Italian, he speaks no English. I don’t care. My work here is done.

Taipei Cycle Show (2) – “madness motel”

I was going to add a post today about the start of the cycle show. But I just have to write about our hotel.

Ibis Hotel, Taipei

Ibis Hotel, Taipei

See anything odd?

Just your everyday anonymous square box. But the web site bills it as a “boutique hotel”. Well to my understanding that means a hotel with a bit of a twist, often a conversion from a previous use that gives it some interesting features.

Standard foyer, marble and plants, alright so far. But then some slightly complicated instructions about going through two doors and the room needing to be “opened up”.

To my astonishment on the 4th floor I stepped out of the lift area into something that looked like a 1970’s night club. Very dark, with some reflected neon lighting bouncing off a strange concrete stairwell, made up of a circular ramp.

To my left what appears to be a set of garage doors, the first of which was open with a door at the back, with my room number on it. And yes they are plastic fish hanging from the ceiling.

IBIS Hotel Taipei, garage room

IBIS Hotel Taipei, garage room

And then it hit me. I am in a multi-storey car park. This is the nuttiest motel I have ever seen. You can drive your car up the old access ramps and park it in your own private garage, in front of your room. Behind your personal garage, your room.

The room is nice enough in terms of decor, but I just can’t get over the fact that I’m sleeping in a car park. Actually the other odd thing is that none of the rooms are joined to the windows you see, they are either fakes, or shine on to service corridors. My room is truly sleeping in a concrete box, even if a well decorated concrete box. And apparently one target market is Chinese couples who come here for their wedding night. Not exactly my cup of tea.

Manfred Neun from ECF has come up with a solution of course, we need to get some bikes from the Cycle Show and park them outside to make a statement to the other customers. Or maybe not, let’s just celebrate the madness.