This year’s Velo-City Global was hosted by Taipei, a huge player in the production of bike components and frames. Taipei, is at the same time, like many other Asian mega-cities, subject to rapid population growth due to the exponential urbanisation of Taiwan. According to Niels Hoé Asian cities problems with congestion is of a very different nature than those we faced in Denmark and many other countries. As a Danish cycling professional it was interesting to hear and learn about how cycling, and mobility at large, took shape in an Asian metropolis. Especially the presentation on the Philippine capital of Manila, ‘Mega-Manila’, which includes some 35 million people when you count its suburbs, was very interesting. As a city with over five times the population of Denmark, it’s a huge challenge to plan any type of transportation in such a massive city. I have personally been looking forward to this year’s Velo-City, particularly because I had the pleasure of advising the Chinese city of Xingin based on my Danish cycling knowledge back in November 2015. Xingin includes over 600 kilometres of bike lanes, a brand new public bike system, as well as nearly 100 kilometres of subway. Just one of many examples on the massive scale of traffic planning in Asian metropolises. The Velo-City Global in Taipei was my 8th consecutive Velo-City conference, and I can state with pleasure, that it was amongst my top 3 to participate in.
Danish bike games and bike training at Velocity in Taipei
At this year’s Velo-City Lotte Bech from Urban Cycle Planning and member of the Danish Cyclists Federation, co-hosted the “2016 Taipei Kids Cycle Games” and spoke at the “International Cycle Safety Education Forum”.
About 150 children aged 3-5 years played along over 4 sessions on learner bikes. The children amused themselves with the games, they were clearly happy to freely run between each other, and for some of them it was their first experience on a bike. A host of both Danish and Taiwanese partners took part in the event, and both The Formosa Lohas Cycling Association (FLCA) and the National Taiwan University were so impressed with the effects of the games that they are now planning on implementing these games in schools and kindergartens across other cities in Taiwan.
The bike games were conducted in collaboration with the FLCA and with the support of the Danish Trade Council, and the Danish companies of Novo Nordisk Taiwan, and Arla. Copenhagen’s Technical and Environmental Mayor Morten Kabell and Klaus Bondam, director of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation, both attended the ceremony as guests of honour along the Taipei Councillor of Transport. Both of the Danish representatives shared some of their insights, focusing on the importance of starting a bike culture with a society’s youngest members, and the political decisions required for actual change.
The inspiration for this Danish-Taiwanese cooperation started at the Cycling Embassy of Denmark’s Masterclass in Copenhagen back in May 2015, where Dr. Ya-Wen Chen from the Taiwan National University participated. She was fascinated by her visit to the kindergarten ‘The Wail’, where she had her first close up experience with children’s joy when playing bike games. This had such an impact on her that she decided to bring these games back home with her.
Creating liveable and great cycling cities
At this year’s Velo-City Global the city of Copenhagen had the pleasure to share some of the city’s insights into what makes a liveable, sustainable, and great cycling city. For Copenhagen the Velo-City conference is not just a unique chance to share the success stories of Copenhagen with the world, but also a chance to be inspired by how other cities handle many of the challenges that are applicable to large cities both in and outside Europe.
It was particularly good to be able to network with representatives from all over the world, including the cycling embassies of both The Netherlands and Germany. Thanks to a hefty amount of activity on social media, and especially Twitter, the Cycling Embassy of Denmark’s presence at the conference was widely shared and recognized. This naturally helps the embassy’s member organisations to promote themselves to potential customers but also has the ideological benefit of being able to share knowledge on the best practices of urban and bicycle planning.
In addition to all of the professional goodwill we experienced at this year’s Velo-City Global, I also felt that the Taiwanese had managed to put together a great conference which felt welcoming, despite the obvious differences in culture and scope, when travelling from a relatively small city like Copenhagen, to the metropolis of Taipei. A personal highlight of mine was to be able to eat dinner at the 85th floor, looking out over Taipei.
Innovative solutions we can learn from
This year’s Velo-City conference was one of the best ones in recent history. We often talk about Danish or Dutch cycling culture, and tend to forget that cycling has been, and still is, just as huge outside Europe. In Taipei we got a chance to experience Taiwan’s take on cycling, and experience some innovative solutions that we have not thought off in Denmark.
Taiwan is also the centre of much of the bike manufacturing industry, and that naturally means a lot of brand new ideas about the bike takes place there. There is no reason why bikes shouldn’t evolve and benefit from cutting edge technology, like any other form of transportation does, and in Taipei we got a chance to see what the future might look like.
The Cycling Embassy of Denmark also had a chance to promote Jens Peter Hansen’s endeavour to get elected into the board of the European Cyclists’ Federation. Naturally having a Dane on the board will give both the Danish Cyclists’ Federation and the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, an insight into what goes on with regards to cycling in the EU. Of course having an insider also means being able to affect outcomes of policies and laws which will positively or negatively affect cyclists of any kind throughout Europe, something that we are evidently interested in to make sure Europe continues its path towards bike friendliness.