I was just about run over by a cyclist yesterday as I crossed the street near my office (Dunhua and Bade) because I hadn't noticed this new bicycle lane had been put in. As a person who's worried about pollution, which is intolerable in Taipei, and an interested cyclist, I'm all for the promotion of bikes as an alternative mode of transportation. But I can't help feeling this is lame. Actually it pisses me off. If Ma (Taiwan's president) is going to advocate we use bikes because they are not: "fuel consuming vehicles" or that we can "help protect the Earth" by riding them, then he should back it up with bicycle lanes that thread along the city's streets, with cops on every corner to ensure the maniacal drivers of Taipei stay out of them. I mean, what the heck are we supposed to do once we cross the street? Should we get up on the sidewalk and weave through the pedestrians, ringing our little bike bells? In the papers, there have been lots of shots of Ma on his bike, but these are obviously for PR, because if he's ever ridden in Taipei he'd know how useless his ideas, or these new crossings, are. Cyclists are NOT worried about dealing with pedestrians on the streets. They're afraid they'll get creamed by one of the many drivers who have no clue how to drive. Here's something on Ma in the China Times: "The [president] said he was happy to see more and more bike lanes being built in every county and city in Taiwan to promote biking as an alternative means of transportation, and he expressed the hope that local governments will introduce sound and more comprehensive biking-related laws to protect the safety of cyclists" http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/national/national%20news/2008/05/05/154911/Ma-touts.htm
My colleague asked me where "Manka" was in Taipei. When I read the Chinese underneath, I discovered that it referred to Wanhua (萬華), also the name of my blog. I thought this was pretty amusing, as Manka, or Monga (艋舺) is a transliteration of Taiwanese. The rest of the map has transliterations of Chinese (Mandarin). This map is part of the Periplus Editions series out of Singapore, which seem to be highly regarded.
Coincidentally, I had just explained to another colleague (the map's owner) that I am one who usually stays out of the ongoing pinyin debate - Wade-Giles (威妥瑪拼音) is better than Hanyu Pinyin (漢語拼音) or whatever - as a.) I don't give a crap and b.) I first learned Chinese using the bopomofu (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) or the Chinese phonetics symbol system, the only one offered to students in Taiwan back in the nineties when I started out. My colleague was in blogland, viddying the intense arguments on the subject, and trying to figure out why anyone cared. Most of the Taiwanese I know speak pretty good Mandarin, and they understand neither Wade-Giles nor Hanyu Pinyin.