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Ketagalan Blvd to be closed at night
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-02-19 04:21 PM
Public reaction to the Office of the President’s announcement that the ten traffic lanes of Ketagalan Boulevard would be closed daily from 11pm to 6am has been largely negative. The move is the result of an attempt by a gravel truck driver to crash his vehicle through the front doors of the Presidential Building in the early hours of Saturday, January 25. Chang Teh-chang accelerated his truck along Ketagalan Boulevard and slammed through a series of barriers and onto the steps of the building before being stopped by a steel door dropped by an alert guard.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin said Wednesday that the move damages Taiwan's hard-earned image as an open, free and democratic society. Hau said he hoped the Presidential Office would take into account the importance of public opinion and international perceptions and reconsider its decision on closing down the roadway. Legislators on both sides of the aisle criticized the move as well, saying that it focuses on the wrong aspect of the problem. They argued that the answer lies in ensuring that people will not be motivated to crash vehicles into the Presidential Building, not in erecting more barriers or closing off more roads.

Several owners of book stores clustered on Chongqing South Road also expressed their displeasure at the decision. Shen Jung-yu, chairman of a book store owners association, noted that most book shops in the area stay open until 10pm, as do other businesses. Many shops rely on a wave of customers during the hours before midnight, and closing off Ketagalan Boulevard after 10 or 11pm complicates transportation for many travelers in the area.

Wang Ming-hsiung, chairman of the Taipei City Taxi Association, noted that closing off the stretch of Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Building would present an inconvenience to those traveling through the area in taxis as well as private vehicles.

Mayor Hau remarked in a town hall meeting on January 28 that while the driver’s act was an isolated event, it exposed weaknesses in the security precautions in effect at the time. He admitted there is still room for improvement, saying that restrictions on tractor-trailers and other large vehicles entering the area could be considered to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents.

Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang said Mayor Hau’s comments were only a suggestion, and the city will respect the views of the Taipei City Police Department and the Ministry of Transportation regarding security in the vicinity of the Presidential Building.

Presidential spokesperson Garfie Lee noted in a press conference that much more stringent traffic controls are in effect daily in capitals around the world, including areas like the White House, Buckingham Palace and South Korea’s Blue House. She said that limiting or closing off access to the square in front of the Presidential Building would have a minimal effect on the light volume of traffic in that section of the city at night. Such a move will also lighten the load of traffic police and allow security units in the Presidential Building to operate more effectively, she said.

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