Monday, December 17, 2012

Agongdian Reservoir Area

It's been great weather for riding in Kaohsiung over the past week. Took advantage of it to explore some new routes around the Agongdian Reservoir in Yanchao. This area is very popular with local cyclists as it's close to the city and offers a variety of terrain for all levels of riders.

On Sunday, my friend D and I headed east out of Yanchao along Jinshan road toward Cock's Comb Mountain. Very quickly, the sounds of cars and motorcycles disappear and you are surrounded by bamboo forests. None of the hills along this road are very long, but some of them are quite steep and really get your heart pumping.

Around 5 km outside of Yanchao the road name changes to highway 38 and you see some brown signs telling you to turn right for Cock's Comb Mountain and the mud volcanoes. I still haven't climbed this mountain, but hope to over the CNY holidays.

The road out to the mud volcanoes is not in the best of shape and dips up and down very sharply through a couple of ravines.

A new road that allows access to the mud volcanoes from Highway 22.

We went back to highway 38, turned right and went up a short hill to a Y-intersection. To the right is Pidi Lane that is the start of a 300+ meter climb up Cell Tower Hill. All the serious club riders that passed us went this way. We decided to save this for another day and go left, continuing along Highway 38 (Tuojhen Lane ).

An unmarked road that goes right off highway 38 and allows you to cut across to highway 41 on Cell Tower Hill. The road is perched atop a very sharp ridge with spectacular view on both sides of the road of the badlands.

Looking back at Cock's Comb Mountain (雞冠山) as we headed for home.

This was the turnaround point for the ride, so we headed back down to Highway 38, then 14 and down 29-1 along the east side of the reservoir.

A nice place to have a rest at the end of a ride on the Highway 29-1, just north of Yanchao.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gangshan Loop

Just perfect weather for riding this afternoon; clear blue skies and a balmy 26 degrees.
Rode the MRT north for 20 minutes to the end of the Red Line: Ciaotou Station.

The Nantze Industrial Zone that I was avoiding riding through by taking the MRT.

Ciaotou Sugar Refinery 

Turned right out of the MRT station, and travelled north on Highway 1 for a couple of minutes before making a left when I saw the purple bridge.

The MRT line continues north to the still unopened Ganshan Station.

Followed a quiet riverside bike path west to a red bridge and headed north to Gangshan.

So much nicer riding through this than along Highway 1 with all the big trucks.

The town of Gangshan used to be called Agongdian until the Japanese renamed it in 1920. The Agongdian reservoir is just to the east of the mountain in the photo above and the Agongdian river flows west to the ocean right through the center of town. 

Following the river through Gangshan.

Riding through Gangshan only takes about 5 minutes and soon the road was quiet again as I fought a headwind toward the coast.

Under the busy Highway 17.

Looking south toward Kaohsiung.

The ocean at last.

Sadly, much of the coastline on this 5km stretch was covered with concrete jacks; not quite the escape from the concrete jungle I had hoped for. The sound of the ocean and a strong tailwind kept my spirits up though.

The Yuanfugang Wetland Park just north of the naval base in Nantze is the last bit of greenery on this ride as the road soon spits you out onto Highway 17 which I followed back into the city.

Total Distance: 42km

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

City Riding

Every Monday and Friday I get the afternoon off work and have a nice window of free time between 12:30 and 5:00pm. The best time for city riding in Kaohsiung is from 1:30 - 4pm on weekdays when the streets are pretty quiet. Did one of my favorite KHH city rides yesterday:
Love River to the North Gate and back.

Started out from Zoying where the bike path crosses Boai road and follows the Love River. The rains from the day before had washed away the smoggy air and a nice breeze was keeping temperatures around 24 degrees.

The bike path along the river is quite narrow, so I usually just stay on the road as it's nice and wide and not very busy.

An octagonal smokstack of the Jhongdu Tangrong Brick Kiln next to the river.
Closed in 1992, it once produced 3 million brick tiles a month.

Nice to be on the bicycle bridge away from this traffic snarl on Wufu road.

The ferry over to Fisherman's Warf on Chijin island was busy.

The Takao Railway Museum has some old steam locomotives and is now a popular spot for flying kites on the weekends.

Just before you get to the British Consolate's parking lot, a little lane on the left takes you up through the old North Gate to a newly built observation platform. I usually stop and get a drink across the street to enjoy while I sit and watch the boats come in and out of the harbour.
The best rest spot in the city.

A harbour pilot hard at work.

I tried to imagine Ang Lee sitting here after reading this in the Taipei Times the other day:

            "During my mandatory two-year military service for Taiwan's armed forces,
             I was stationed in Kaohsiung's harbor area. Looking at the sea every day,
             it gave me free reign to dream my dreams and develop a limitless imagination,
             so it feels good to be back here." Ang Lee

The late afternoon light always makes for great photos at the harbour.

Route Map
Distance: 21km

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bloody Cyclists!

I've been having a large number of close calls / near accidents with bicycles over the past couple of months while riding my motorcycle. After riding accident-free on my motorcycle over the past 15 years in Taiwan, and always on the lookout for cyclists, it had me a bit puzzled. I hadn't changed how I was riding, so what was going on?

Well, there's just a heck of a lot more bikes on the road than ever before, and it's exposing a lot of the flaws in how the lanes and paths for bicycles in Kaohsiung have been designed. That, combined with the fact that bicycles aren't technically vehicles in Taiwan, and basically follow none of the rules for either vehicles or pedestrians; riding on the wrong side of the road, on pedestrian crossings and sidewalks are all common offenses. As a responsible cyclist, who always makes sure I'm riding in the right place and fashion 110% of the time, the behavior of other cyclists infuriates me at times.

The public bicycle rental system (C-bike) has been almost TOO successful and it's starting to cause problems. When I first saw them setting up C-bike rental stations around the city I was a bit sceptical about its chances for success, but it has certainly proved me wrong. The huge number of roads that now have sidewalk bike paths makes it seem like a safe way to get around a flat city. 

One of the many popular C-bike rental stalls near my house.

One of the main problems is people just don't walk or ride where they should. In the above photo you see the pedestrians using the bike lane and the cyclist across the street is forced to use the pedestrian crosswalk. As soon as the walkers get 2m away from the curb a scooter is going to make a right turn behind them and almost hit the cyclist because he is hidden from view behind the walkers, but going much faster than somebody on foot. The scooter rider never really had a chance to see it coming.

Do the walkers not see the blue lines on the road with a clear picure of a cyclist? Of course they do, but coudn't care less; even though their actions almost caused the serious injury of the boy on the bicycle.

Seconds later, a family waits to cross the road on the bike path.

This time, a car has stopped blocking their path, so they too are forced to ride across the pedestrian crossing between the 2 cars. Just as they were going through the gap, they were almost hit by a motorcycle approaching from their right, on the far side of the black car.

The motorcycle was racing to make an illegal right turn on the red light and didn't expect anyone on the pedestrian crossing to make it into the space so quickly - in spite of the fact that the other cyclists, with the yellow backpack, just went in front of him!

It's when turning right on my motorcycle that I've been having the same problem. Bikes are entering the roadway at a place that is normally for pedestrians, and often mixed in with them, but at the speed of bikes. Just bad design. In every case, I almost hit a cyclist who seemingly came out of nowhere onto the road in front of me.

A lot of the problems are explained very clearly in this brilliant article:
How not to get hit by cars

Also enjoyed reading this piece the other day about the history of cycling lanes in the Netherlands:

So, how did they succeed? They hit the streets and protested and didn't give up.
     It took them a decade, before not only decision makers, but also the planners finally
     listened to the protests. Getting the people who take decisions and those who have
     to draw plans for the streets to adopt the new ideas: that is where the real change started.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lotus Lake

Haven't been to Lotus Lake in quite a while, so thought I'd take spin around with my son this afternoon. We hooked-up with the bike path at Kaohsiung Arena on Boai rd. and headed along the backside of the Zoying Train Station.  It's currently receiving a new addition that looks like it will now be accessible from our side of the tracks - great.

It's a heck of a lot safer crossing Highway 17 with the new bike bridge than the last time I was out this way.

My son wasn't too keen on all the photography stops; he'd heard stories about dragons and tigers at this lake and wanted to get underway ASAP lest we miss them.

A number of surprises awaited at the lake today; the first of which was Water Skiing!
You just never know what's around the corner in Taiwan.

The trail around the lake is quite shady and is pretty busy at any time of day. Although there are clearly marked paths for walking and others for cycling, most of the walkers and runners use the cycling path because the surface is better. People were pretty good at getting out the way when they heard us coming though.

A new cafe across the street from the Dragon & Tiger Pagodas made for a nice break.
Their fresh roasted coffee was really good and the folks running it were very friendly.

We didn't stop long at the Pagodas, as our trail-a-bike was getting a little too much attention from the large groups of Chinese tourists unloading from their buses.

The lake had one last surprise for us though; a cable line system for learning how to water-ski.
My attempt to explain what they were doing was soon cut short by my son:
"I know what they're doing - it's just like Penguins of Madagascar!