Big Yellow Bike

I was taking a long pleasant bike ride along the Danshui river that runs through Taipei city. Taipei truly is a city designed for bicycles (though it is hard to imagine so when you are constantly smothered by swarming scooters). Bike lanes are designed and maintained all along the rivers that run in cross shape through the center of the city. Bicycle is also the ideal tool to stroll through numerous small alleys that lace downtown that keep Taipei’s good-old nostalgic atmosphere persistent through all these economic&social shakedowns. Bicycle can instantly switch between the vehicle lane and the pedestrian lane on a whim to wade through the capricious traffic lights (though not exactly recommended…).

It is not just the serious bicycle people wrapped in rainbow-colored costumes who are enjoying bike rides: I see more “ordinary” people riding their own “mama” bike (me) or a bright-yellow public rental bike, called YouBike.

When the yellow bikes started to pop up in Taipei a couple of years ago, I thought (and probably many people did too) that it was another wasteful government initiative for officials to steal even more taxpayer’s money under the beautiful slogan “Of the people, by the people, for the people…” because the bicycle was UGLY as hell. (It still is—just watch the first 5 seconds of the video.)

But Taipei government relentlessly continued to build new rental bike stations (fueling my conspiracy theory), and now…people ride yellow ugly bikes everywhere, as if the bike has been part of their life for years. I see yellow bikes on the riverside, on the street, in the mountain. I see men and women, young and old, formal and casual, beauty and beast.

My beautiful conspiracy theory crumbled apart. The government did not have an evil plan. It was the people who were brainwashing themselves Instead, I am now understanding that if you create a system that truly benefit everybody and (more importantly) continue it long enough to get over the chasm, you can overcome almost anything, including hideous design which should have been the biggest reason a new project fails in this sophisticated world. I still do not think the program helps improve Taipei’s scenery, but I openly admit my cluelessness: hats off to Taipei city officials for having the long-term perspective to push such projects and users for having the guts to ride the bike understanding the essential spirit of the project and riding along with it (pun intended).

Nowadays, every time I see the yellow bike (and the frequency is increasing day by day), I receive encouragement: Just do what you think is the right thing to do. You might not be creating the best looking item in the world, but who cares—things will happen as long as you keep doing what you do with faith.