Taiwan lures cycling tourists with huge infrastructure investments and showers at police stations
For years, the Netherlands and Denmark have become a mecca for cycling tourists.
But now these European stalwarts face some new competition from Taiwan (Republic of China), an East Asian nation slightly larger than Vancouver Island.
On Thursday (June 5) at Robson Square, the deputy director general of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Wayne Liu, made the case that Taiwan just might be the greatest cycling destination in the world.
"In the past 10 years, the Taiwanese government has invested more than (US)$1 billion in strengthening the bicycle-routes infrastructure in Taiwan," Liu said.
He noted that there are more than 80 dedicated bike routes around Taiwan that cover more than 3,000 kilometres.
"In Taiwan, you can bring your own bike to take the train or bus, you can ride on a dedicated bicycle lane or country roads, and when you get tired you can drop into a teahouse or coffee shop to rest," Liu said. "Even you can put the police station as a rest stop. Some police stations offer tire inflation, toilet, shower, and beverage service."
He noted that CNN Travel named the Sun Moon Lake area as one of the world's 10 most breathtaking cycling routes.
The island nation's famous Taroko Gorge route goes up 3,275 meters over a 105-kilometer area.
That ranks it as one of the top 10 most difficult routes in the world, according to the French magazine Le Cycle.
Canadian Olympic cyclist Zachary Bell endorsed cycling in Taiwan during the event at Robson Square.
Bell revealed that last year, he competed in an eight-day race along the west coast of the country.
"I was a big fan of the route that they planned for us," Bell said. "There was a lot of different topography changes and you know, we rode through a lot of different environments, which is not something I was expecting on such a small island."
Meanwhile, Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang also said that he enjoyed cycling during a trip with his wife to Taiwan last September.
He said that the Taiwanese know how to create excellent bike lanes for someone like himself, who doesn't cycle much at all.
"I've got to say, what a great experience," Jang said.
Another speaker at the event, Burnaby councillor Anne Kang, was born in Taiwan but left at a young age.
She admitted that she finds cycling to be "intimidating" in the Lower Mainland, but not in Taiwan.
"It was very accessible, it was very safe," Kang said. "There was only one challenge I found...I couldn't help but get off my bike every once in a while to stop and eat at the teahouses."
Taiwan has a population of 23 million and includes 10 national parks and many museums.
It was under Japanese rule before becoming part of the Republic of China, which was proclaimed in 1912.
It was only after the Second World War that the Republic of China exercised jurisdiction.
Following the Chinese civil war and the victory of the Communists, the government of Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, setting up its capital in Taipei.
The event at Robson Square also featured a group of dancers who performed accompanied by the popular Taiwanese song "Your My Flower".
If you watch the video below, you'll see how they break apart at one point to reveal a young woman who appears to be cycling on top of others' bodies.