[Safely Cycle in Taiwan] Taiwan Road Classification

[Safely Cycle in Taiwan] Taiwan Road Classification

Taiwan Road Classification Introduction

Choosing safe Taiwan roads in your route planning is the foundation of a safe ride. The safer a route is, the more tolerant it is to a cyclist’s accidental errors.

In order to properly choose safe Taiwan roads, we need to first understand Taiwan road classification and its implication to cycling.

Bicycle Inaccessible Roads

1. National Highways (國道):

Under Taiwan road classification, a national highway is labeled by a plum flower sign with a number indicating which national highway it is.

national-highway-sign

2. Expressways (快速道路):

An expressway is labeled by a red shield sign with a number in the middle.

expressway

Notice that although bicycles are forbidden on expressways themselves, many expressways have separate scooter lanes at their sides. Check this with Google Maps.

Bicycle Accessible Roads

Under Taiwan road classification, the following three types are ridable via bicycles.

3. Provincial (State) Highways (省道):

DSC00174

Great river valley scenery of State #21 to Tataka.

What it this?

A weird name as a reminder that Taiwan was called a “province” in old days, a provincial (state) highway is the fastest and often well-managed road in Taiwan for cyclists.

The label of a provincial highway is a blue shield with number in the middle.

provincial-highway

Sometimes provincial highways may have extensions. In this case an additional Mandarin counting character like Jia 甲, Yi 乙, Bing 丙 will be added.

Characteristics:

The typical speed limit on a provincial highway is 70km/hr (43 miles/hr). At flat regions many can be as wide as 6 lanes plus 2 separate scooter lanes, or 4 lanes without separate scooter lane.

DSC04132

At mountain regions the provincial highway is typically 2 lanes with a yellow middle line, yet at some sections it can reduce to a single lane.

For cyclists:

There is no doubt that provincial highways have the best road conditions and design for cycling. There is even a government website listing out all provincial roads’ current conditions and real-time road camera images.

Taiwan safe cycling: provincial highway information website

Provincial highways interactive real time information map.

The major concern on provincial highways is then traffic. At flat areas you want to avoid populous towns which provincial highways pass through. At mountain areas you want to avoid highways with a lot of big buses, as well as popular tourist attractions of that season.

Wuling from the West

Often jammed State #14 Jia near the top (WuLing 武嶺).

If you want to cycle on heavy-traffic provincial highways, I recommend you join an event or ride the section in early morning.

For popular provincial highways in the mountains like State 18 to AliShan and State 14 Jia to WuLing, I would further recommend you only ride up and take transportation down.

DSC03078

Beautiful mountain-side bridge on State #18 to AliShan. Too bad this road has too many big buses.

Little Traffic Provincial Highways for Individual Rides:

4. County/City Highways (縣道/市道):

DSC00588

County #136, the most popular mountain training route at TaiChung.

What it this?

County/city highways are my favorites for cycling routes, for the following reasons:

  • They are relatively well maintained.
  • Most of them don’t have national-wide popular tourist attractions along their ways. This means less traffic.
  • The speed limits are often too slow that vehicles, especially big buses/trunks take other roads.

Of course, as county/city roads don’t often lead to popular tourist attractions, more homework is needed to plan a fun ride.

Characteristics:

County roads’ speed limit is about 50km/hr. Most of them are standard two lane road with/without narrow scooter/bike lanes. In the mountains county road can reduce to one lane only.

DSC04454

Great valley view on County #124.

County/City Road Sign

The sign is simple on Google Maps: a black-border white background rectangle with a black number in it.

county-road

It’s easy to confuse county/city road with local roads (鄉道). A county road does NOT have a Mandarin character at left/top of the number!

080716 PingXi Bike Ride

Curved County 106 乙 at PingXi

5. Local Roads (鄉道):

DSC04664

What it this?

If you want to experience the most remote scenery and life of Taiwan you have to take the Local Roads.

As mentioned above, the local road signs differ from county/city roads by whether there is a Mandarin character in front of the number. That Mandarin character represents the county the local road belongs to.

local-road

Example of a local road. The character here represents HsinChu (新竹).

Characteristics:

Even under Taiwan road classification, local roads’ quality varies greatly. It can be as wide as a two-lane road like the county/city road or be a super-narrow, partially unpaved road not suitable for road bikes.

DSC04514

Worse, many local roads are in deep inside the mountains and are not properly managed. They constantly have sections under repair, fallen rocks at roadside and potholes.

DSC04673

For Cyclists:

You should check extensively on Google Maps (satellite image and road images) when deciding to ride a remote local road!

You should also consider riding with others on a remote local road:  many are very remote that you see one car per 20 minutes!

DSC04789

HsinChu 60 (竹60), one of the major local roads to many mountain aboriginal villages.