Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back to Basics - With a Twist

2009 was officially the year when everyone collectively jumped on the "Green" bandwagon. I personally think it's great that being more efficient, productive, and cleaner; while finding alternative sources of energy are now considered cool and mainstream. What I do love about this new green penchant is that people are rediscovering that tried and true methods are actually beneficial to the cause, such as the simple act of using a bicycle as an alternative or even primary means to transportation. On a recent trip to Taiwan, I found that the city of Taipei is taking bicycle transportation well into the 21st century.

At strategic locations all over central Taipei, Community Bike Centers have been established. At these locations, people can use smart cards which assist in the nominal financial transaction of renting a community bike. The transaction takes place at a free standing Kiosk which instructs the rider each step of the way. From here, the rider walks to any number of community bikes that are awaiting to be placed into service. The rider then swipes their smart card across the Sensor Device which operates as both a locking system for bike security and to register the bike to the specific rider. Only after the transaction is registered, is the locking mechanism automatically engaged and the rider is then free to take the bike and set out on their journey.

Once the rider is done with their bike, they can simply return it to any of the many Community Bike Centers that are all over town, swipe their smart card to calculate hours used and deduct the charge, inventory the bike at its new location, and safely lock the bike for its next use. It's a new take on an old and trusted method of transportation and is meant to encourage community bike riding in urban areas to help reduce traffic, improve air quality, as well as enhance physical fitness.

Taiwan has a wonderful bicycle culture and is the home of the bicycle manufacturer Giant. Many Taipei residents enjoy the city's bicycle connector paths which connect riders from the dense urban core to outlying suburban and scenic areas. It's great to see this country lead the way in bringing technology to something like urban bicycle transportation. I sure hope other countries can follow Taiwan's efforts.


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