Jul 01, 2017 Business & Finance Comments Off on Thousands of motorcyclists protest for right to travel on freeways
Taipei--Thousands of riders of heavy motorcycles parked their bikes in front of the Presidential Office on Saturday to join a protest demanding the right to ride their vehicles on Taiwan's national freeways.
Many of the motorcyclists wore yellow banners reading "equal rights to road usage" around their heads or tied them to their machines. They accused the government of "administrative laziness" for its failure to implement a revised law that would allow motorcycles over 550 cc to travel on freeways.
According to the amended traffic regulations in 2012, heavy motorcycles can travel on some sections of freeways at times designated by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC). The protesters are angry because the ministry had yet to announce the relevant freeway sections and designated times as of Saturday -- a delay that the protesters believe is intentional.
Hung Tsung-pao (???), who heads a large motorcycle association, said the ministry has attributed the delay to the results of public opinion polls and opposition from local governments.
"But what do national freeways, which fall under the jurisdiction of the central government, have to do with local governments?" Hung asked.
"We are not asking for road rights to be granted to us, but for them to be returned to us," he said, adding that the protesters are willing to wait three more months for the ministry to improve the relevant hardware so that it is ready for the opening.
Earlier in the day, at least 200 motorcyclists attempted to ride onto freeways, but many were stopped by highway police.
As of 3 p.m. that day, highway police had stopped 178 motorcyclists from entering freeways at several interchanges, according to the MOTC.
Police also fined 43 motorcyclists who successfully entered the freeways, and impounded their vehicles. Officials from the National Highway Police Bureau also checked surveillance footage and targeted 44 motorcyclists who were caught traveling on Freeways No. 1, 3 and 6, the MOTC said.
Cho Ming-chun (???), an official at the traffic management division of the MOTC's Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau, said the motorcyclists who violated the law will be fined between NT$3,000 (US$98) and NT$6,000.
They will also have to pay for the NT$2,400 impounding fee.
In response, Hung said that the protesters will pay their fines, but only after they have filed an administrative lawsuit and have lost.
Cho said the freeway breaches on Saturday, coupled with an accident, caused traffic congestion lasting 11 kilometers on a section of Freeway No. 1 between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thirty-six heavy motorcycle riders were pulled over on the hard shoulder and had their vehicles impounded.
In response to the protester's requests, Cho said his ministry will convene a meeting on July 3 to discuss relevant issues with scholars, experts, heavy motorcycle groups, car associations and government officials from other ministries.
He said consent from the majority is important on this issue.
Wang Kwo-tsai (???), MOTC deputy minister, said last month that heavy motorcycles are only allowed on regular streets and an expressway at the moment because local governments are unwilling to open up freeway sections to such vehicles.
He said that observation shows that some motorcyclists behave the same way on the expressway as they do on streets in the downtown area-- not maintaining safe distances and weaving through traffic -- which is a concern for his ministry.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel
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