Blog: Love, Dadaocheng

Taipei's historic first pedestrian bridge is in danger of being lost 保存台北市第一座天橋

Local residents gather to urge historic preservation. Photo via Yi Chiu at Taipei Walking Tour

Starting in the late 19th century and well into the 1960s, what is today known as Yanping North Road (延平北路) was the most bustling roadway in not only Dadaocheng, but in all of Taipei, connecting the north and south, as well as leading to Taipei Bridge (台北橋, the bridge famous nowadays for the organized chaos of its morning scooter commuters). This was before Taipei had large highways to relieve downtown traffic, and before the east district (東區) took over as Taipei's main center of commerce.

Although today's Yanping North Road looks much like most other large streets in Taipei, at its busiest, the road was lined with shops which supplied much of Taipei, and the nearby residential population was, as a result, quite sizable. In other words, the district was crowded, traffic was heavy, and getting around on foot could be both inconvenient and dangerous. Students from Yanping North Road's Taiping and Yongle Elementary Schools (太平國小 & 永樂國小), which sit directly across from each other, would certainly have found navigating the busy street a challenge.

To cope with this situation, in 1968, local residents banded together to raise money for a pedestrian bridge. The bridge would be located at the intersection of Yanping North Road and Liangzhou Street, and would link the two elementary schools, allowing students to cross safely. The residents gathered NT $400,000 for the purpose, handing the money over to the Taipei City government to handle construction of the bridge. When the bridge was completed, it was Taipei's first ever pedestrian bridge, and it still stands today.

Liangzhou/Yanping, looking north. Via Google Street View

These days, Yanping North Road isn't quite as hectic as it once was, though it still is a major thoroughfare for traffic through Datong District (大同區). The elementary schools now have crossing guards, city buses have stops right in front of the schools, and lines of cars form at the end of each school day, when parents come to retrieve their children. There are also traffic lights and crosswalks just next to the schools, and as such the bridge is no longer used as much as it did in the past.

Taipei City government is now looking into demolishing the city's pedestrian bridges, as most do not receive much foot traffic. Recently, the city did a test run, closing some bridges and collecting resident feedback about how much use they are getting out of the bridges, and this test included the Yanping North Road pedestrian bridge. To be clear, the bridge is not in disrepair, but naturally the city is always looking for ways to reduce costs for infrastructure upkeep. A decision has not yet been made, but surveyors returned this week to evaluate the site, prompting local school and community organization representatives to gather to express their hope that the bridge can be preserved.

Unfortunately, this piece of Taipei history could still soon be lost. What makes this bridge special is not only that it was the first, but that it was the product of Taipei citizens coming together to do something for the collective good. These days, in a city whose residents are often accused of being cold and unfriendly compared to residents of other cities and small towns in Taiwan, the bridge serves as a nice reminder of what it is like to have a real community which works together to find solutions that benefit all. What's more, Dadaocheng residents have suggested that the bridge can become a canvas for local artists or schoolchildren, helping it to become both a landmark worthy of visiting and a symbol of community building for our bustling city.

Let's hope that the city opens its eyes and sees that sometimes, "usefulness" is not the only measure of importance for an object of city infrastructure. Meaning cannot always be derived quantitatively -- it's the stories and the people behind historic spots, as well as their future potential, that make them worth preserving.


The information in this post comes from both past research and the following post by Dadaocheng's Taipei Walking Tour. Special thanks to Taipei Walking Tour founder Yi Chiu for permission to use the header photo.

1960年代是大稻埕黃金時期,紡織輕工業已經興起,今日許多上市櫃集團於大稻埕發跡,傳統的貨物貿易仍蓬勃發展,那時候沒有便利商店、量販店,台灣北部的小型商店、餐廳,都必須來到大稻埕進貨,而規模最大的大千百貨也在這個時期開幕。

當時,還沒有高速公路,南北貨運運輸多走一號省道,貨車從一號省道、過台北橋進入臺北市,第一條道路就是延平北路,可說是台北最重要的一條商業道路,百貨、酒家、戲院、舶來品商店林立,大稻埕居住人口密集,太平國小、永樂國小學生眾多。

1968年,太平國小家長、大稻埕中藥商游俊成,捐款40萬元給台北市政府,興建了這座天橋,讓太平、永樂國小的學生能平安經過車流最繁忙的延平北路,是臺北市第一座天橋。

現在,延平北路已經不若以往的繁忙,行人路權超過車輛,太平、永樂國小學生已經不被強迫走天橋,多走斑馬線,台北市政府檢討這座天橋的使用狀況,前陣子封橋測試,試探居民意見,今日則進行封橋後會勘,太平國小校友會、臺北市社區營造中心、延平里里長都到場陳述意見,希望能保存這座臺北市第一座天橋。

負責保養維修的新工處表示,此次會勘將地方意見上呈給市長做決定。