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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  April 15, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT

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. ♪ ♪ ♪ taiwan's major me trop plis taipei, the mainstre street is
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packed with cars, motorcycles, recently orange city bicycles have become an increasingly common sight. they are made available through a public bike sharing system launched by the city government in 2012. ♪ ♪ many people use them instead of motor bikes for commuting to work or school. [ speaking foreign language ] >> bike sharing systems can be found in over 800 cities and towns globally, but taipei's is the most widely used system of all. there are now around 6,000 bikes in operation with a daily average of 11 rentals per bike. in just over two years, the total number of rentals has
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exceeded 40 million. it's attracting world attention. a stream of study groups from european and asian countries have come to learn from its success. the people of tie pie have impressed the bike sharing system as a means of public transportation. in this episode of "asia insight," we unravel the secret of its success. ♪ ♪ taipei, 20 years ago. taiwan had become a center of contract manufacturing for industrialized countries and had enjoyed steady economic growth ever since the 1960s. the resulting population increase and surge in auto and motor cycle numbers its major
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city taipei had led to serious traffic jams and air pollution. to help relief the problem, the city authorities began construction of a mass rapid transit system as an alternative to road vehicles. the first mrt line was launched in 1996 with seven lines currently in operation and has resulted in a considerable easing of traffic congestion. to make the public transit system even more convenient, taipei decided to introduce a bike-sharing system. in 2009, they ran a pilot in one business district and then launched officially throughout taipei in 2012. its slogan is to serve as the last mile public transit vehicle from the station to the user's
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destination. called u bike, the logo is a smiling face formed with the letter "u." users can rent a bike at one of the cities rental stations and return it at any station. the rental fee is 15 cents for the first half hour. after that, it's 30 cents for each 30-minute block up to four hours and 60 cents for each 30-minute block up to eight hours. it's a tiered pricing structure. the city is also creating more bicycle-only lanes. the network is over 380 kilometers long and is continuing to expand. taipei's city department of transportation spearheaded the introduction of the bike sharing system and continues to
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supervise operations. >> we hope to demonstrate here and throughout asia the effectiveness of public bike sharing in reducing motor bike traffic. taipei's mrt system has helped improve the environment over the past 20 years. with u bike, our transit system will become even more ecofriendly. >> the actual operation of u bike is contracted to a private taiwanese company that has worked hand in hand with the department of transportation right from the planning stage. ♪ ♪ 81-year-old founder of the company has played a hands-on role in creating the u bike system. a u bike user stops to chat with him. his company is also behind a
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household name bicycle brand. ♪ ♪ after working in various jobs in his youth, leo set up a bicycle parts manufacturing company in 1972 at the age of 38. called giant, it flourished as a manufacturer for foreign bicycle brands. it now applies the know how it acquired over the decades to produce over six million bikes a year and has become one of the world's leading bicycle brands. ♪ ♪ his company achieved fame as a manufacturer of sports and recreational type bicycles. why then did he decide to commit to the bike-sharing program using city bikes?
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>> a friend of mine who was visiting taiwan from switzerland said to me you've achieved success as the head of a world-leading bicycle manufacturer. why is it that i don't see many psych clifts out on the street in taiwan, your home base? i didn't know what to say. that's when i made up my mind to promote cycling throughout taiwan. ♪ ♪ soon after in 2000, he donated 1,000 bicycles to taipei city so that people could rent them out and make use of the cycling road along the river banks. at first the rental service was a success, but people soon became tired of cycling the same
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road, and also lack of proper maintenance resulted in vandalism with bikes being thrown into the river. the service was abandoned after less than six months. ♪ ♪ but eight years later, the city launched a plan to augment the mrt-based public transit city with bicycle sharing. he immediately offered his cooperation. >> i'm met with strong opposition from many stockholders as well as the staff. they were afraid that another failure would ruin our reputation as a bicycle manufacturer. there was also some concern from within the department of transportation regarding the danger of cycling admits so many
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automobiles and motor bikes and as to how it would be managed. >> leo, however, refused to give up. he promised the city his full cooperation and set out to alleviate his concerns of the opposition. he started off by forming a u bike division with a team of 11 which now expanded along with the city and now employs 350 people. the first thing the u bike team did was to conduct detailed market research with potential users, the taipei public. they also visited london and paris to study existing bike sharing programs. ♪ ♪ a year later, in 2009, they launched their pilot program, by providing original bicycles developed especially for u bike and a carefully thought out system, the aim was to serve as the last mile of public transit.
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♪ ♪ this is the latest u bike model. by making the front wheel smaller than the back wheel it's easier for novice cyclists to set the bike in motion. to make it easier to straddle the bike in a skirt, the frame has a deep curve, and the tires are fitted with large covers to minimize dirt. ♪ ♪ the saddle has a deep groove and a hole for a less damp ride open rainy days. these designs were developed in response to user feedback and after considerable trial and error. the rental system has been greatly simplified. all that's needed to disengage
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the lock in the bike rack is a public transit smart card registered in the users name. it contains the users cell phone number for identification and also processes the feed. ♪ ♪ in 2009, there were only 11 rental stations. ♪ now there are 169 nine. most of them are located near mrt stations and public facilities and are open 24 hours a day. there's also a u bike smart phone application that displays rental stations and the availability of bikes. it shows that are there are 23 bike available at the selected station. >> the official u bike system
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has been running for two years now. it has 1.5 million registered riders who uses the service for diverse purposes. >> translator: we're going on a date. it's a nice day. perfect for cycling around town. >> translator: i'm looking forward to it. >> this couple began dating two months ago and have used u bike on almost all of their dates so far. ♪ ♪ there's not much traffic on sunday. an ideal day for cycling.
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♪ ♪ they soon reach a hill which keen cyclist han headaches on -- takes on with ease. she has her work cut out keeping up. around 15 minutes from the rental station, they arrived at a hilltop park that offers a panoramic view of the city. it's a well-known taipei date spot. ♪ ♪ a snapshot against a city landmark, the taipei 101 building.
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there's a sense of accompli accomplishment in cycling. it also gives you time to enjoy the scenery. >> the couple spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying their bicycle date. ♪ ♪ even on weekends and holidays, there can be quite a line at a rental station when all the bikes have been rented out. ♪ ♪ five minutes later, a truck bearing the u bike logo arrives, carrying additional bikes. ♪ ♪ both these men are members of the u bike division.
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there are 15 mover trucks in all to make sure that all 169 stations have an adequate supply of bikes. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ [ speaking foreign language ] >> the u bike division also operates a year-round 24-hour call center. staff are always on stand by to respond to questions and requests about registration and other matters. ♪ ♪ ♪ the u bike division also carries out maintenance on all 6,000 bikes twice a month.
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since each bike is ridden 40 kilometers a day on average, it's essential to carry out regular maintenance and repairs. the staff check to make sure there are no loose brake wire cables, chains, or bolts. there's also an interesting twist to the components. the saddle cannot be pulled out. many of the components cannot be used on other bikes. the bolts attaching the cable lock cannot be removed with an ordinary screwdriver. these designs have helped limit the number of thefts to less than 20. ♪ ♪ recently, there's been an increase in the number of people who ride u bikes to work. we met this man at a rental station in the office district.
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>> translator: when i don't have much luggage i always use u bikes to make the rounds of my customers. they are so convenient. ♪ ♪ >> he's heading to the nearest mrt station. he deals in the sales, leasing, and maintenance of copy machines. he visits an average of four or five customers a day. while traveling on the mrt, he always checks his smart phone to confirm the availability of bikes near the station where he's about to get off. after a 10-minute ride, he arrives at the mrt station nearest to his next customer. he goes str bike station he found on his smart
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phone and rents a bike. ♪ ♪ in less than five minutes, he will arrive at his destination. his next customer is a buddhist temple. he says he sometimes makes the rounds of his customers by car but that it's more efficient to travel on the mrt and rent a u
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bike. >> he's a great cycling fan. instead of returning the bike, he heads to a cycling road. if he has time, he will often do some exploring on his bike and find a nice spot to chill out along the way. ♪ > translator: u bike is great. it allows me to mix work and pleasure. it's especially good for me because i can explore different parts of the city in between or after work.
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>> he can forget about work for a moment and simply relax and enjoy himself. one of the benefits of riding a u bike. ♪ ♪ >> a shopping area close to an mrt station near the city center. in a lane in front of the station, the chief of this burough is having a conversation with the department of transportation and a member of the u bike team. [ speaking foreign language ] >> the chief is inquiring about the possibility of constructing a u bike station on this private road in the hope of attracting
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new customers. the u bike team member begins measuring the area to see whether or not it's possible. [ speaking foreign language ] >> there needs to be space to hold a sufficient number of bicycles. it also has to have access to a power source. >> translator: this is close to a busy local mrt station, and having u bike will attract even more people to the area.
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it should also attract more tourists. it's a great location for u bike. [ speaking foreign language ] >> most u bike stations so far have been built on city-owned land, but as in this case, more private land owners are seeking to build stations on their properties. ♪ ♪ it's past midnight. time for the last trains on the mrt. after leaving the station, a man comes to rent a u bike. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> late at night, a lot of people use u bikes instead of taxis to return home. before long, all the bikes at the station have been rented out. ♪ ♪ meanwhile, the u bike mover trucks are beginning to replenish the empty stations. the staff use tablets to check the number of bikes at stations nearby. >> translator: there aren't so many left. we need to go pick some up from the station near the elementary school. ♪ ♪ >> had he -- they head to a residential district where people return bikes at loading n to the truck, the staff head to the rental station in front of the mrt.
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♪ ♪ they arrive in about five minutes and begin unloading the bikes right away. once they finish restocking the bikes, they will be finished for the day. it's nearly 1:00 a.m. ♪ ♪ >> translator: not at all. it's safg for me. -- it's satisfying for me. users appreciate it. so it's worth with it. ♪ ♪ >> thank to such dedication, the u bikes can perform their role as the last mile public transit
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vehicle. >> bye-bye. ♪ ♪ >> in march 2015, the u bike system underwent a major change. the city decided it was time to abandon the system of allowing free usage for up to 30 minutes and start chashlinging -- charging all users a rental fee. >> the city government had been subsidizing the rental fee for the first 30 minutes. compared to other public transport subsidies, it wasn't that large a sum but as it's part of the public transit system, the people who actually ride the bikes should be paying for it. it's unfair to support users with subsidies from taxpayers. >> the people of taipei seem to
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support this decision. ♪ [ speaking foreign language ] >> taipei city's bike sharing system looks like it will continue on a steady growth path. there are already plans to boost the number of rental stations. >> we intend to have 400 stations operating within four years. so far, we've been increasing stations at a rate of 60 a year, but residents are demanding more, so the city may still have to subsidize some of the construction costs in the short term to meet that demand. >> translator: i believe u bike is a meaningful under taking. if it continues to do well, it will be an unforgettable milestone for me in my life.
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but what's more, there's no question that bike sharing can contribute to the well-being of the people. we've seen this many people take up u bike in taipei so far. i intend to keep on making improvements in order to put a smile on even more people's faces. my aim is to make it the best bike sharing system in the world. it's my life's work. >> similar bike-sharing systems have already been introduced in four other taiwanese cities. the u bike last mile public transit vehicle model may spread throughout taiwan in the
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not-to-distant future. ♪ ♪ ♪
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hello there, and welcome to "newsline." it's thursday, april 16th. i'm catherine kobayashi in tokyo. transport ministry officials say they're learning more about what caused an accident at an airport in western japan. they say thes ian that airlines plane was flying at a normal altitude until one minute before landing in hiroshima. they are trying to figure out what caused an aircraft to drop suddenly. the aircraft, the accident occurred on tuesday evening local time. the airbus a32

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