Monday, June 17, 2013

Fixing Taoyuan's Sidewalks

Last week the Liberty Times reported that Taoyuan is planning on spending NT$400 million on improving sidewalks along 10 roads as part of becoming a directly governed municipality.  Specific improvements include installing more durable tiles, fixing broken sidewalks, leveling out sidewalks so that steps will be only 8 to 10 centimeters high, and eliminating some transformers.  According to Taoyuan Mayor Su Jiaming, these improvements are part of the Interior Ministry's "People-oriented" policy of making cities more livable and creating more ecological and accessible environment.  The project is expected to be completed before 2015.
Any improvement to Taiwan's sidewalks is good news, and it is especially encouraging that they mention leveling out sidewalks- walking on sidewalks Taiwan often involves a lot up and down.  (Though given the job they've done in Yonghe I'm skeptical how great the improvement will be.)  That said, it's disappointing that this article doesn't mention two of the largest problems facing pedestrians in Taiwan: nonexistent sidewalks on streets wide enough to have them (contrary to recent Taipei policy, lanes should not have separate sidewalks), and scooters and cars blocking sidewalks, often illegally.  These two problems often force pedestrians to share the street with speeding cars, or at best to zigzag around parked vehicles.  The problem with resolving these problems is they require taking away parking spaces, which politicians are loathe to do for fear of incensing drivers.  Given how dense Taipei's cities are, though, it makes little sense to coddle drivers at the expense of walkers' safety and comfort.  If Taiwan is serious about mass transit, environmentalism and creating quieter, safer, and less polluted cities, this would be the best place to start.

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