Bike Culture in Beijing

The Tsinghua campus is really big so everyone has a bike but bikes are very prevalent elsewhere as well. In several ways the surroundings have been shaped by this:

  • Bike mechanics scattered around campus. There are about seven of them. Fix your bike instantly. Also sell spare parts — locks, seats, baskets, and so on.
  • Huge bike lanes. On the road from the subway to where I live, the three lane road is divided into one shoulder lane, one lane for bikes, and one lane for cars. The appearance is that the bike lane is twice as wide as the car lane. The effect of these huge bike lanes isn’t trivial: I feel safe.
  • Bikes parked everywhere. At big stores, parking attendants charge 5 cents/bike. Payable when you leave.
  • Discarded bikes. Near the subway station is a pile of 20-odd bikes. About once a year discarded bikes are removed from the Tsinghua campus.

3 Replies to “Bike Culture in Beijing”

  1. i like public transportation because i have a discount pass and in the bay area, i usually just pay half the regular fare. even for the bart, i get a big discount. in one of your blog entries, seth, you wrote that one sunday morning you were going to go with your friends to see some leaves change colors at a famous place. then some buses passed by and they were packed! so maybe in beijing the public transportation is bad. when i am on the berkeley campus, going home, the #51 bus going down bancroft st towards the bart station is almost always packed with students going to shattuck, same place im going. i just try to squeeze in!!!

    i used to carry around a rolling backpack, but because i travel via public transportation so much and i have to squeeze in places all the time, i just use a backpack. but it is so heavy…now that i carry around my laptop. but the pluses of carrying my backpack outweigh the minuses….and i try to travel light but because i buy things for people on the way, i wish i still could bring around my rolling backpack!

    reminds me of when i was homeless in boston, massachusetts and i was standing with my homeless friend at harvard university. we were looking at one of our homeless companions who slept outside the coop (the bookstore near harvard), and he had all his stuff piled up and my homeless friend said, “now that’s not traveling light!” and we both laughed. when i was homeless, i laughed a lot more and was happier when i had nothing. now i have a job and money and i am more anxious than ever. but i am getting better slowly…flaxseed oil helps me. better than cod liver oil…

    hey seth, maybe you could have lent me your really supercool scooter before you left for beijing?????

    and one thing i’d like to add about the flaxseed oil…i’m not as sleepy in the morning as i used to be.

  2. I’ve been riding my bike to get around everywhere in San Francisco for near five years. It’s been encouraging to see the increase in bicycle riding here and the culture around it, but the experience of biking in San Francisco leaves much to be desired. The SFBC (San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a non-profit bike advocacy group) has done a good job of lobbying for bicycle infrastructure improvements, but as a daily bike rider the progress hasn’t been fast enough.

    The main problem is safety. Striped bike lanes creating a false sense of safety and separation as opposed to physically separated bike lanes through the use of curbs (see Stockholm, Sweden). Lack of driver education that bicycle infrastructure improvements help everyone (bikes get out of the way of cars and vice versa, making both safer).

    I hope China continues to support infrastructure for bicycles such as you have highlighted here. I feel that bicycle infrastructure improvements are a bit of a chicken and egg problem here in San Francisco. The city would be more interested in providing improvements if there was more demand (and thankfully demand is growing), but who’s going to ride a bike when they don’t feel safe while riding? I’m of the belief that in this case, if the city were to provide the appropriate infrastructure we will see demand and use skyrocket.

    Thanks for the observations.

  3. Sean Abrahams said “who’s going to ride a bike when they don’t feel safe while riding? I’m of the belief that in this case, if the city were to provide the appropriate infrastructure we will see demand and use skyrocket.”

    That’s right!

    Oakland has a bike advocacy group with a blog about the latest developments (What’s the latest on bike access around the new Kaiser building?)
    http://www.walkoaklandbikeoakland.org

    (I’m html-challenged, so I put their link in the “website” section of the comment form. One of them ought to be clickable. )

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