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HEALTHCARE | Arianna Danganan, Taiwan
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Taiwan rolls out inclusive e-bike sharing programme for people with disabilities

Authorities heeded the call from its rapidly ageing population.

A bike sharing programme which caters to the needs of Taiwan's population with disabilities and the elderly using adaptive bicycles is gaining traction as the government aims to make its public transportation more inclusive. 

The topic was raised by Pacific Cycles' Daniel Tsai during the pre-Medical Taiwan International Medical, Health & Care Expo tour. Tsai is slated to present during the Medical Taiwan Expo in Taipei, Taiwan which will run from 27 to 30 June.

Adaptive bicycles are modified bikes which are configured to meet the needs of patients with disabilities through features such as additional footplates and special seats. These cycles range from tricycles, three or four-wheeled tandem bicycles, hand-powered bikes, and recumbent bicycles for those with spinal problems.

Taiwan first launched its bike sharing programme YouBike in 2009 with 500 bicycles across 11 stations in Taipei. As of 2017, the programme has 214 stations with 7,000 bikes placed next to MRT stations, bus stops and major tourist attractions.

According to the country's Advanced Public Transportation Research Centre, Taipei plans to increase its YouBike fleet to 400 stations and 13,000 bicycles by 2018, with an additional 192.9 km of bike lanes and facilities by 2019. Aside from Taipei, YouBike has also been implemented in New Taipei City, Taichung City and Changhua Country.

"But those rental bikes are for regular, healthy people. People with disabilities started to complain that there are no rental bikes for those with special needs," Tsai revealed. "So they tried to ask the local government for their own bike share programme, and this was launched roughly two years after YouBike."

Across the globe, Europe and US are considered as the most mature markets for the bike industry, with Asia trailing behind. Tsai also noted that only less than 1,000 of Taiwan's elderly population use adaptive bicycles due to the hefty price tags for such vehicles.

"This is obviously more common in Europe, where countries like Norway have very advanced medical insurance which can afford to buy such bikes for their elderly. But as Asia, especially Taiwan, sees their ageing population rapidly increasing, the use of adaptive cycles is a trend we can expect to see sooner or later," Tsai explained.

According to Taiwan's National Development Council (NDC) projections, the country's elderly population accounted for 3.43 million of its 23.59 million population, and is forecasted to rise to 3.78 million by 2020.

Arianna Danganan of Healthcare Asia is attending the 2019 Taiwan Int’l Medical & Healthcare Exhibition Pre Show Media Tour from 11 - 15 March, 2019 in Taipei, Taiwan. For editorial opportunities, send an email to arianna@charltonmediamail.com

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