Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bicycles in China: Falling or Rising?

Every reputable climate scientist out there is sounding the alarm: decrease carbon output or we're all toast. You'd think countries everywhere would be scrambling to find ways to encourage people to get out of their cars, into mass transit, walking -- and bicycling.

How are things in the "Kingdom of Bicycles"? 

In 1949 Chairman Mao decreed that China would make it's own bicycle, and 1950, the first Flying Pigeon Bicycle rolled out of the factory. Bikes were touted as one of the three essentials, along with sewing machines and watches. 

As China embraced western style growth, the Chinese also embraced western style cars.  According to Earth Policy Institute, between 1995 and 2005 the number of bikes in China decreased by 35%. Private cars more than doubled, from 4.2 million to 8.9 million. Some cities closed bike lanes, blaming bikes for traffic congestion. In 2004, Shanghai banned bicycles from some downtown streets. The perception of bicycles as icons of prosperity, flipped, to symbols of the old, backward China. Bikes might have hit a low point in 2010 when T.V. dating game contestant Ma Nua was asked by an unemployed suitor if she'd  ride a bicycle with him on a date. She tartly replied, I'd rather cry in the back of a BMW than smile on a bicycle." A social media uproar followed. 

The tide may be turning. Smog, people who don't have cars, international influence and young hipsters, are helping make cycling trendy again. A lot of people are buying environmentally friendly electric bikes and motorcycles. 

Big cities are setting aside bicycle lanes and starting bike share programs. Informal "alley cat" races are popping up, adding to bicycle cache. 

Now it's a race, I suppose. Will the Chinese become car-centric, following the west? Or will we, become more cyclized, following the east? 

Motorbikes for rent, Shanghai
Old and new, Shanghai
Recycling in Shanghai
Bicycle Sculpture, Shanghai
Bicycles in a Beijing hutong (courtyard divided into apartments), slated for demolition to make room for high-rises.
Shanghai - garden trimmings

Cyclists at the Great Wall
Students in Beijing
Effects of smog, Beijing
Haven't quite caught on

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15!! No, not just tax day (104 commutes by muscle in 52 weeks)

Day 366!  Grand total:  127 commutes by muscle.  

Lesson:  City cycling is not for weenies

Worse for wear

NEXT:  UP THE ANTE.  Transportation by muscle 3 times a week for a year.  Want to join me?  

Thank you visitors and followers.  Shutting down here for a few weeks.  Still sloggin', I mean bloggin' away at

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Home Stretch Reflections: Week 50

"Our teapots are broken,
 our rocking chairs smashed, 
and our bicycle tires
 all blew up when we crashed..." 
from Horton Hears a Who

There's a bicyclist in town who sports an impressive set of safety gear: front and rear helmet lights, a headlight, tail light (all lights going, day or night), reflective jacket and vest, reflectors on the fender, reflectors on the spokes of his wheels and on velcro ties around his ankles, all topped off with a flag.  I'm tempted to ask if this was because of some kind of bicycle trauma that he doesn't want to repeat, or if he just likes gear.

Not that I blame him.

There was a time when I avoided wearing safety equipment. It felt like a bull's eye, all that flashing and winking and shining. Come on cars, here I am.  Come and get me. 

Reflective materials, however, have risen in my estimation ...

...especially when someone else wears them.  Illumination in a drizzle, or before dawn, or at rush hour, is good.  

The anonymosity of dark in the city lights
Photo by Boegh (Flickr)

Anyone who bicycles in this car-mad world deserves to strut their stuff.

Reflective design on my rain jacket

"We are here, we are here, 
we are here, we are here!"
 (Horton's Whos)

Week 49:  walked 1x, bicycled 2x.
Week 50: bicycled 3x 
Week 51:  walked 1x, bicycled FIVE TIMESEnd date:  April 15.  Grand total:  124, TWENTY in the bank.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Update: 104 commutes by muscle in 52 weeks

Week 45:  walked 1x, bicycled 3x. 
Week 47:  walked zero, bicycled 2x 
Week 48:  walked 3x, bicycled zero. End date:  April 15.  Grand total:  112, 16 in the bank.

MILESTONE:  Week 45: 105

6 weeks to spare!