Taipei has numerous easy options for the urban cyclist. The easiest thing is to take advantage of the city’s bike share program, U-Bike. There are little rental stations all over Taipei— you acquire an “Easy Card,” swipe it at any rental kiosk, pay for whatever time you use on the bike, and return the bike to whichever rental station is convenient for you. If your cycling plans are more rugged and extensive than touring the city, you can also rent mountain bikes in town, or road bikes from the aptly named Giant company.
We got ourselves some snazzy orange U-Bikes and set off toward the older part of Taipei—an area we hadn’t yet explored.
Toronto traffic is generally an orderly affair. The streets follow a predictable grid pattern, and other distractions on the road are fairly minimal. It took a bit of time to get used to the rhythm of the streets in Taipei. Wide roads turn suddenly into skinny alleyways, scooters are beeping and burning past you everywhere, locals are pushing fruit carts through the streets and it seems to be acceptable to ride your bike on the road and the sidewalk— something you’d definitely get the pedestrian’s evil eye for doing at home. Though the bike lines are well marked and heavily used, the city is hot and bustling and moving fast, with a lot happening at once. I was easily distracted by all kinds of quirky street scenes, but this is part of the joy of roaming through an unfamiliar city.
Our leisurely ride took us past opulent ministry buildings, elementary schools with kids playing outside in colourful uniforms, busy vegetable markets, and temples tucked away into surprising little corners of the urban scene, the sweet smell of burning incense often giving them away long before your eyes can find them.
After a few hours of riding, it’s time for a quick shower, and a last lunch of delicious Chinese dumplings dipped in fresh ginger and soya sauce. After that, we’ll need to start making our way out to the airport to begin the long journey home.
Text by Sophie Kohn / Photo by David Spadavecchia