YouBike- Taiwan’s Bike Sharing System

Taipei is a city that has many outdoor attractions. Whether it is parks, temples, gardens, or the night markets, much of daily life is spent in the midst of the bustling city streets. Taipei’s bike sharing system, YouBike, is a great way to get out and see some of the incredible sites Taipei has to offer.

In 2009, the Taipei City government teamed up with Giant, a world-renowned bicycle manufacturing company. YouBike started with only 11 kiosks in the Xinyi District of Taipei. Now there are 190 rental stations with over 6,000 bikes in circulation! YouBike has also stationed kiosks in Taichung, New Taipei, Changhua County, and Taoyuan.

How to Register for YouBike

In order to check out a YouBike, you will first need to buy an EasyCard. This card is an essential purchase in Taiwan because it is used to access the Taipei Metro, buses, and taxis.

You can even use the card for purchases at convenience stores. Cards can be purchased at 7-11, Family Mart, or any other major convenience store. For further information about the EasyCard, you can visit their page here.

Caroline Hosey - YouBike2

The process of registering the EasyCard for YouBike is quick and easy.

Do note that the only way to register your EasyCard is to have a Taiwanese cell phone number.

  1. If you are just visiting Taiwan, you can purchase temporary SIM cards from major Taiwanese carriers at the International Airports.
  2. The next step is to register the EasyCard at any of the YouBike computerized kiosks. To find a YouBike station, you can download the YouBike app and check the map to see the station locations. You can also typically find YouBike stations outside of most MRT stops.
  3. To register the EasyCard, just follow the instructions on the screen. Directions are available in both Chinese and English.
  4. First you will select “Join YouBike.”
  5. Then you will need to agree to the terms and conditions.
  6. Finally a confirmation code will be sent via text message to your phone.
  7. Submit the given code, and then place your EasyCard on the sensor. In a matter of seconds you are ready to ride!
Caroline Hosey - YouBike3

Simply click “JOIN YOUBIKE” and you will be on your way!

If a visitor does not have a local Taiwanese cell phone number, they cannot use the EasyCard for YouBike transportation.

However, there is an option to use a credit card registration instead. To do this, select the “Single Rental” option from the screen. Then agree to the terms and conditions and follow the instructions for inputting your credit card information. YouBike puts a temporary hold of NT$2,000 on the credit card until the bike has been returned. Once the bike has been returned, the proper amount will be credited and the hold will be removed.

The cost of renting a YouBike is based on the duration of use. The first 30 minutes costs a mere NT$5. After the first 30 minutes, the rider is charged NT$10/ per half hour for the next 3.5 hours. After four hours of use, the rate increases to NT$20/per half hour for the next 4 hours. The final rate increases to NT $40/per half hour if the bike is used longer than 8 hours.

How to Check Out a You Bike

Caroline Hosey - YouBike4

Error codes in English.

Checking out a YouBike is extremely simple!

  1. First select a bike from one of the kiosks. I suggest checking the seat and tire pressure to make sure the bike’s condition is suitable. The YouBike maintenance crew is quite efficient in picking up faulty bikes, but occasionally a bike might have a loose seat or a flat tire.
  2. After choosing which bike to ride, swipe the EasyCard on the “Sensor Zone”. When you hear the beeping sound, you can remove the bike. A screen will also display your balance, so you check how much money is on your EasyCard. More money can be added to the EasyCard at convenience stores or inside any of the MRT stations.
  3. Occasionally an error message might appear. In that case a number will pop up to let you know what the issue is.  Each number corresponds to a different error message, so just check the number to see what the issue might be. There is a chart adjacent to the sensor that has the numbers and their corresponding problems. If the sticker only displays the problems in Chinese check the adjacent bike slot for English instructions.

Best Places to Cycle in Taipei

Once you get the bike, its time to enjoy all of the sites Taiwan has to offer!

In many neighborhoods there are bike paths. If the bike paths are not marked on the sidewalk, just stay to the side that is closest to the street. In some cases the sidewalks may be too narrow or crowded, in that case it is acceptable to ride in the street. Just make sure to follow traffic rules and stay to the far right.

Conveniently marked bike lanes are throughout the city!

Conveniently marked bike lanes are throughout the city!

Though it is quite easy to ride anywhere in the city, I highly recommend taking the YouBike to the riverside.

The best places to access the river are at Songshan, Gongguan, Tamsui, and Yuanshan MRT. The river path is rarely crowded, and it will give you the freedom to ride as quickly or as leisurely as you prefer.

Stunning riverside views near Tamsui

Stunning riverside views near Tamsui

Returning the YouBike

Returning the YouBike is just as simple as checking it out.

You do not need to return it to the same station.

Instead, just find a kiosk anywhere in the city.  If you are having problems finding a station, there are three solutions to solve this problem:

  1. First you can check the YouBike app. On the app, a map shows the locations of all of the stations. The app also tells you if the kiosks are empty or full.
  2. Option two is to visit YouBike’s website. The website has a map feature to assist you in finding the bike stations.
  3. The final option is to use Google Maps to find the closest MRT. If you can find an MRT station, then you should be able to locate a YouBike parking zone close by.

When you arrive at the YouBike station, just slide the bike into the lock and scan your EasyCard. The card should beep and show your remaining balance.

Caroline Hosey - YouBike8

Also, if you want to park the bike, have no fear! There is a lock feature, so you can leave the bike anywhere you would like. On the front wheel of the bike, there is a removable key and a cable attachment. Simply, just secure the bike wherever you wish using the attached cable. Just be careful not to lose the key!

By choosing to ride a YouBike, you can get great exercise while also decreasing your carbon footprint! You can explore more area than would be seen on foot, and you can easily access any point of the city. I highly recommend to anyone, young or old, to get out and enjoy a ride!

The Legacy of George Leslie Mackay

One of Taiwan’s best known and most loved expats was a Canadian man from Zorra Township in Oxford County, Canada, which is now known as the Province of Ontario.

His name was George Leslie Mackay and he was the first Presbyterian missionary to visit Formosa (Qing-era Taiwan). He arrived in Southern Taiwan on December 31, 1871 and began his life in Tamshui (Danshui) in northern Formosa in early 1872. He remained in Tamshui for 30 years until his death in 1901.

Mackay had the honor of being the first missionary to be dispatched by the Presbyterian Church of Canada. His mission was to bring the gospel to those who had not heard of Christ.

My commission is clear; I hold it from the King and Head of the church: …To get the gospel of the grace of God into the minds and hearts of the heathen, and when converted to build them up in their faith – that was my purpose in going to Formosa.” (Mackay p. 135)

Right from the very beginning, Mackay was known to avoid the small European community in the Tamshui area. The local European and Christian communities did not take well to his arrival. Moreover, the environment during that era was somewhat hostile for foreigners. Mackay was often labelled as a ‘foreign devil’ and a ‘black-bearded barbarian’, and the locals were reluctant to become involved with him.

Shortly after arriving he wrote:

“I am shut out from fellowship with Christian brethren, yet I am not lonely nor alone. I feel my weakness, my sinfulness, my unfaithfulness. I feel sad when I look around and see nothing but idolatry … I can as yet tell little about Jesus, and with stammering tongue. What can I do? Nothing; But, blessed thought, the Lord Jesus can do all things. .. Jehovah is my refuge and strength.” (Mackay p 18-19)

Since Mackay had no means to speak with his parish, he decided it was of the utmost importance that he learn the language. When he was not able to find a tutor, Mackay spend his time with local herds boys, and they agreed to teach him Taiwanese. He learned vernacular Taiwanese, the language that is spoken by the common people of Taiwan, and it was in this way that he was able to preach his basic gospel message.

Upon mastering Taiwanese, he helped to adapt the Taiwanese language to a written form by adapting the Latin alphabet to represent it phonetically. From then onwards, this style of writing was used by the Presbyterian missionaries and by the indigenous Presbyterian Church of Taiwan.

In addition to learning the local language, Mackay employed a number of different methods to find converts. He preached predominantly with aboriginals in mind, and his earliest converts were illiterate natives. He wasn’t a doctor of medicine, but he had sufficient skills in medicine to be able to provide aid to those who suffered from tropical diseases such as malaria. His most notable method at the time was an itinerant dentistry practice that he used to extract teeth, all while singing and preaching his message. He was eventually granted a honorary doctorate by Queen’s College in Kingston, Canada for his many achievements in Taiwan.

Danshui Foreigners' Cemetery

By 1888, he had 16 chapels and 500 converts among the native Taiwanese.

His marriage to a Taiwanese slave-woman named Tiu Chhang-miâ is also another example of Mackay’s success in going native to find converts. His marriage caused a considerable amount of controversy in Canada and in the foreign community in Formosa. However, his wife, known by the name of Minnie in the West, proved to be a formidable force in the mission. She helped to raise money in Oxford County for the construction of Oxford College in Tamshui, and she also acted as matron of the girls’ school. Their marriage was a happy one, and they had three children together.

In 1895, Dr. Mackay authored a missionary ethnography and memoir of his missionary experience in Taiwan in 1895. His book was called From Far Formosa: the island, its people and missions. It is is best known because of its defense of gender and racial equality, but it is also of importance to many historians and scholars because it lends an important anthropological understanding of Taiwan’s peoples and cultures during the nineteenth century in Taiwan.

Dr. Mackay is responsible for many incredible achievements in Taiwan, including the establishment of churches, schools, the first western medical hospital of its kind in Taiwan, and a dentistry practice for aboriginals. The churches that he founded eventually became part of the present Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.

Although Dr. Mackay achieved many incredible milestones during his lifetime in Taiwan, perhaps his most significant achievement was the building of the MacKay Memorial Hospital, which was established on December 26, 1912. It is one of the largest medical centers in Taiwan, and it is deeply rooted in the Presbyterian tradition.

The original Mackay Hospital was initially called Mackay Clinic, and it was built in Tamshui in 1880. The hospital was closed in 1901 at the time of Dr. Mackay’s death, but it reopened in 1905 and it was eventually relocated from Tamshui to Taipei in 1912. The hospital was renamed as the Mackay Memorial Hospital.

Mackay showed great love and pride for Taiwan and because of his achievements, he was eventually loved by Taiwanese and expats alike. Some families in Taiwan today, especially of lowland aboriginals of the Kavalan ancestry, can trace their surname to ‘偕’ (‘Kai’ or ‘Kay’), which not only demonstrates their love and respect for Dr. Mackay, but it also shows their family’s conversion to Christianity by Mackay.Mackay and wife grave

Dr. Mackay was one of those rare individuals who allowed himself to be transformed by the people he served, and his life is truly something to be celebrated. Taiwan would not be what it is today without George Leslie Mackay’s significant contributions.

He dedicated his life to bringing medical, dental, and spiritual guidance to the people of Taiwan, and was directly responsible for establishing more than 60 local churches, Oxford College (Aletheia University), the first girls’ school (Tamsui Girls’ School on the east side of Oxford College in 1884), and Tamsui Middle School, which is now known as Tamkang Senior High School.

Mackay might be unknown to most Western scholars of religion, but in Taiwan he is revered as Taiwan’s most famous ‘native son’. His story and memoir provide valuable insight into his life, background, and legacy, as well as the Taiwanese cultural background in which he worked. His lifetime achievements are a true demonstration to his love for Taiwan and its people.

How dear is Formosa to my heart! On that island the best of my years have been spent.
How dear is Formosa to my heart! A lifetime of joy is centered here.
I love to look up to its lofty peaks, down into its yawning chasms, and away out on its surging seas.
How willing I am to gaze upon these forever!
My heart’s ties to Taiwan cannot be severed! To that island I devote my life.
My heart’s ties to Taiwan cannot be severed! There I find my joy.
I should like to find a final resting place within sound of its surf and under the shade of its waving bamboo.
-“My Final Resting Place” by George Mackay