Gov’t drafting new road laws for bicycles

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Government agencies have started drafting new traffic regulations for bicyclists, hoping promote both the use of environmental friendly bicycles and avoid possible accidents. The Legislative Yuan recently ratified the revisions of traffic administration statute to divide bicycles into three categories. They are 1) traditional pedaling bikes, 2) electrically-assisted bikes, and 3) electrically-powered bikes. Officials at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) and the National Police Agency under the Ministry of Interior have started holding coordination and consulting meetings with experts to come up with new traffic rules before the end of next month. The officials said there is a need to set well-defined traffic rules for bicyclists in view of the high number of bikes as well as the high accident rate for bicyclists.

There are an estimated over 20 million bikes in Taiwan and offshore islands. Sales of the traditional pedaling bikes reach 500,000 units every year as local-level governments around Taiwan have been promoting the use of bikes as a transport tool to help reduce environmental pollution, conserve energy, and promote people’s health.

The electrically-assisted bikes are increasing by 4,500 each year. There are already 200,000 electrically-powered bikes on the roads, although existing rules still prohibit the use of this type of bike before December. Official statistics also show that 664 people were killed in bike-related accidents plus 27,131 injured islandwide. In 2006 alone, the deaths reached 183, including 118 of head injuries. Officials said the new rules under deliberation are expected to take effect by the end of the year. The rules that have been agreed upon so far include requiring bicyclists to make the two-phase left turn on traffic lights now required for motorcyclists. All bicyclists will not be allowed to pedal across the walkway marked with black-white strips reserved for pedestrians on crossroads. They have to get off their bikes and walk with them while in the area.

But those taking the traditional pedaling bikes and the electrically-assisted bikes can use the walkways along the streets. Those using electrically-powered bikes can only take the slow lanes like motorcyclists do. Bikes are required to be fitted with lights and reflecting strips. Those without lights are not allowed to use the road at night. Officials are also considering a rule that requires bikers to don helmets. Violators of the rules will face fines between NT$300 and NT$600. Some MOTC officials have been pushing for stiffer fines in order to protect both the bikers and pedestrians. Transport service experts said more detailed rules should be worked out to avoid possible disputes. For one thing, they pointed out, there is presently a fourth category of bikes that are the hybrid of electrically-assisted bikes and electrically-powered bikes. Bike stores have long been offering the service of upgrading the electrically-assisted bikes to electrically-powered bikes that can save bikers’ strength but also run much faster. It will be extremely difficult for traffic police to tell the difference of the two models, they said.