Monday, December 16, 2019

Youbike discriminates against foreigners


It feels as though every time life in Taiwan for the foreign community gets better - websites improve, companies will take our resident visa numbers rather than saying they're "invalid" - it's inevitable that soon, it'll also get a little bit worse. Two steps forward, one step back.

Today, the issue is YouBike.

The Facebook group Taiwan Foreign Residents' Association confirmed just a few hours ago that YouBike, once open to registration by all residents, including foreigners who have made Taiwan their home, now does not allow foreigners to register their EasyCards for use with YouBike.

Apparently, the reason is that YouBike now offers personal injury insurance, and such insurance is not available to foreign residents, therefore, no new registrations will be allowed (they had been allowed previously).


Of course, there is no reason why they can't offer foreign residents this insurance. We pay taxes and pay into NHI just as citizens do. Many of us - myself included - also pay into labor insurance. We pay our dues, and deserve equal treatment.

Suggestions from YouBike staff so far have been to recommend that we register with a local friend's information - you know, like we're criminals trying to hide - or have a friend rent a bike for us (because of course, we should all have Taiwanese friends with nothing to do willing to come out and meet us every time we want to rent a bike, and also be available to us at our destination when we return the bike. Yeah, right). The other workaround is to rent one on your bank card with a one-time registration and NT$2000 deposit.

Nevermind that NT$2000 - around US$60 - is a lot of money in the local economy for something as simple as a bike ride. You do get the money back, but imagine if you rented a YouBike every day. Your bank account would be a mess, with that $2000 deposit coming and going daily. Apparently it can take up to 15 days to be refunded, but if you ride YouBike every day, does that mean every 15 days you have to hand the government NT$30,000 in deposits? If you ride it twice a day - say, to and from work - that's NT$60,000, more than the average local salary.

How is someone supposed to stay on top of their finances that way? Do they expect that foreigners will only rent YouBikes occasionally? I know people who rent one every single day. 

The other suggestion, apparently, is to giggle at the person calling because there are no other options.

Let me be clear: this is discriminatory. It is unfair. We have made Taiwan our home. We live here, work here and pay taxes here. YouBike is a government project. It is simply not acceptable to withhold government services to foreigners as though we are second-class citizens. Unwanted, untrustworthy.

Is this the face Taiwan and YouBike want to present to the world? The famous hospitality and friendliness of Taiwan, oh, except you can never truly live here as a normal person, we'll always make life difficult for you for no reason at all?

If Taiwan wants to open up to the world, to be an international nation and Taipei and international city, it must do better. It cannot treat foreigners like undesirable scum. We are not criminals. We work and pay into the system like everyone else, and so we deserve the same transportation benefits as everyone else. Period.

Even tourist deserve better - part of the whole point of YouBike is to encourage tourism by helping people get out of the city. Taipei Magazine routinely suggests tourist itineraries that use YouBike - how do they expect tourists to use it if they can't even register with the EasyCards they're going to get? Do you really think they'll pay NT$20,000 for every YouBike rental on their visit, to be refunded long after they leave? It's ridiculous!

It shouldn't be hard for the time being to create a registration system that opts out all registrants without a National ID. Hopefully the law will be changed to allow residents to participate in the insurance scheme, but for now that would be a sensible workaround.

In fact, what happens if a friend does register for you, and there's a crash? Does the insurance apply? If not, can't you sue, as technically the insurance was activated upon registration? If that's the case, doesn't that just create more confusion? If current users can still access the system, what happens if they are in a crash? The workaround suggestion negates the rationale for the change.

Finally, aren't the format of ARC and APRC numbers supposed to change soon, to match national ID numbers? What happens then? The whole thing is a mess. It doesn't make sense, meaning the reason boils down not to regulatory issues, but idiotic, discriminatory, self-defeating and short-sighted decisions.

Do better, Taipei. Do better, Taiwan. And do better, YouBike. 

If you want to complain to YouBike, you cannot contact them from their website because that requires a national ID card number. ARC numbers are not accepted. But you can email or call them:

City Hotline: 1999, ext. 5855 / 02-89785511

Or, you can send a complaint to the Taipei City government under the "simple petition system" here. You can leave the National ID section blank (unlike on the YouBike website).

I suggest you do all of those things. Let's make them feel this.

This is what I wrote:

I'm writing because it's becoming well-known in the foreign community in Taiwan that Youbike is no longer offering Easycard registrations for foreigners who live here, even if we are permanent residents or otherwise have a resident visa. 
This is unfair and discriminatory. We pay taxes and pay into National Health Insurance (so insurance issues should not be a reason to discriminate). I personally have lived here for over 13 years; to say that I cannot access the same services as other Taipei residents makes me feel like an unwanted, second-class citizen. Is this the face Taiwan and Youbike want to show the world? That they are unfriendly - even hostile - to foreigners? 
Having to put down an NT$2000 deposit is simply not fair for people who have built their lives in Taiwan. We are not tourists. We are *residents* and we live, work and pay taxes like *residents*. We deserve to be treated like *residents*, not "scary foreigners" who can't be trusted. We are not criminals! 
Taiwan must do better, and Youbike must do better.
I am sure that this story will hit the media soon, so I request kindly that the policy be changed as soon as possible to end all unfair discrimination against the foreign community here. 
Best regards, 
Jenna Cody


Not a woman said...

I would like to tell you my opinion and engage in your blog proactively but your blog is only for women. Stop being a hypocrite and buy your own bike. The only way you can fight a company which in your eyes is wrong is by simply not supporting their agenda with your money. This first world complaining doesnt help you. Be proud and go your own way instead of asking someone else to pave it for you.
I am pretty sure this comment wont make it on your blog anyway and dont worry, I will not start whining about censorship and such. It is your blog, do what you want. Just engaging in your "Women only" blog complaining about foreigners not enjoying the same rights as locals. Think about it...

小翔 said...

This is sad. I totally agree with your opinion. What YouBike does is mere discrimination.
We ought to urge the government and media to push YouBike Company to address this issue as soon as possible.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Lao Ren Cha is not only for women. The point of the tagline is to let women know that I cover issues relevant to them specifically, but the point isn't to exclude anyone else. In any case, I keep it as a tagline because it's a good filter of who is a decent person who understands this, and not. I see which category you fall under, so thanks for that.

I'm publishing your dumb comment anyway, because I want to address this dumb point:

"Stop being a hypocrite and buy your own bike. The only way you can fight a company which in your eyes is wrong is by simply not supporting their agenda with your money."

No, it is possible to get organizations to change their policies by appealing to them, and the more people that do that, the better. So refusing to use their service is not the only way. That's just wrong.

Besides, I don't ride often enough to justify buying and storing my own bike.

Finally, YouBike is not a fully private company, it's a government endeavor funded by Taipei City. That means I can't "refuse" their service, because my tax dollars help pay for it. Would you suggest I go to the tax office and demand they not charge me the money I am paying toward Youbike with my taxes every year? How would you suggest I not support them when I am literally paying money to the government to support them?

"This first world complaining doesnt help you. Be proud and go your own way instead of asking someone else to pave it for you."

I'm not asking others to pave the way for me. I am appealing to Taipei City government to change the policy. Publishing this isn't just complaining, with the huge number of views it's gotten, I have surely convinced more people to also write their own letters to the government, and the more people who appeal, the more likely we can get the policy changed. It's not whining, it's strategy.

And it's working!

Just today the city government announced that the policy would be changed - tourists will still have an issue, and we need to keep pressing to change that, but foreign residents will soon be able to register for YouBike again. See? It worked! We fixed the problem through what you call "first world complaining" and I call "strategizing". You were simply wrong about what could and could not be done.

"I am pretty sure this comment wont make it on your blog"

Normally I don't post hateful garbage like this, sure, but there were some things I wanted to respond to here. You don't have to be female to comment - many of my commenters aren't - but you do have to be "not an asshole". Although you failed that test, you gave me a platform to clarify my points, so thanks for that.

"I will not start whining about censorship and such. It is your blog, do what you want."

Exactly. "Censorship" is when the government bars you from speaking, through legal means and throws you in jail if you break the law. Free speech as a right was never meant to obligate operators of private platforms (such as this blog) to publish every single thing people want to comment. I am not obligated ethically or legally to give you a platform. You still have freedom of speech though - you can create your own platform.

"Just engaging in your "Women only" blog complaining about foreigners not enjoying the same rights as locals. Think about it..."

It's not a women only blog, again.

However, I don't understand the rest of this point. What I am asking for is access to services my tax dollars pay for. Nothing more, nothing less. So what on earth am I supposed to be thinking about? How I should work here and pay taxes that fund things I can't use because I wasn't born here? That's just ludicrous.

But then so is this entire comment so I'll leave it here.

I would encourage you not to comment again. I can't stop you from reading, but you'd probably prefer not to, and I won't notice or care if you don't.