I have lived a large number of years in China and Beijing specifically. Beijing is a huge metropolis with now very cosmopolitan population – as a result (I think) the city has largely moved away from using bikes to any significant degree.
Years ago, the streets of the city were clogged with bikes – as those provided the main means of transportation. Today, everyone has jumped in a car or in the subway and the bikes are few and far in between on the city streets.
After a recent outing to the Beijing Olympic park though, I have some hopes that the situation may change. Why do I say that? Because both the city as well as its residents are starting to pay increasing attention to exercising and enjoying ecologically clean means of doing so. The city is also spending large sums of money for maintaining the park and as a result I have hopes that they will start investing also in bicycle friendly streets and areas of the city.
Here are some photos from the Beijing Olympic park on a recent Sunday afternoon….
The park itself I can use also some paths for biking – there is certainly enough space based on the loading of runners I see – i.e.not that many, and given its large size can offer good opportunity for at least some exercise and learning to navigate a bike in the outdoors.
At any rate, I do think Beijing can benefit hugely from large usage of bicycles so any steps in encouraging that will be helping the city reduce pollution and congestion.
Bicycles – Crazy Uses
Have you thought about the various uses of a bicycle…? All of us think a mountain bike is a mountain bike, you have your trails or neighborhood pathways and you go for the exercise and the excitement of downhill rushing by you….a 29er screaming downhill at 30-40miles an hour…what a rush!
Then there are a few other uses of a bicycle – take a look below… Have you thought of any of them? I bet not….or ?
Here are the pickup bicycles. Who said you cannot move 100-pounds of shrimp or chicken from the warehouse to the market 🙂
These bikes will certainly do the job well…
And then there are also the heavy weight moving machines. These are almost pulling as much weight as a mid-size truck in the US.
Hey, at least they are not polluting and are on top of the energy efficiency list, right?
Did we see enough? I bet not…
Here is another contraption – a bike on the streets of Beijing
This baby can haul some stuff…You agree, right..?
Sleeping on your bike…anyone? Why not – this bike especially…I am surprised there is no mattress on it
But seriously, it is obvious that bicycles continue to be a dominant force in China…
Beijing is a city famous for many things – one of them being its circle of universities. Those include Qinghua, Beida, among many others. So one good use of sightseeing time is to jump on your bicycle and explore those place in a good pace. Here is a recommended trail for your exploration activity:
Start at Wudaokou Bridge Cafe (Address: 海淀区成府路35号华清嘉园12号楼) on the map below I have put a circle around the general area and a green balloon identified it on the Google map of Beijing. From here you can bike along Chengfu Road and turn right on Zhongguancun East Road heading mostly North. Bike along this road until you hit Tsinghua (QingHua DaXue – 清华大学)
You can bike around the university – go by various sports courts and interesting buildings of the various departments. Eventually you need to find JinChun Lu and the Physics Tower and from there the JinChun Lake. Then continue on Qinghua South Road until you come to ChengFu Road again. You will turn right on ChengFu Road headed west towards BeiDa (北大 — Beijing University)
Soon enough you will encounter the East Gate of Beijing University (北京大学东门) – enter here and keep going West. Soon enough you will see the University Library, then you will search for Weiming Bei Lu and here you will find a way to get to the Weiming Lake. Then if you would like you can stop here and admire the serenity and beauty of the lake, flowers and plants….Or you can decide that you would like to explore more in which case, continue West and search for the West Gate of Beida on Yiheyuan Lu.
Then bicycle North and search for Qinghua Xi Lu near by from where you can continue and find the Yuanmingyuan – The Old Summer Palace.
This is probably enough of exploration for one day. Now, how do you return the bike etc.? Well, I advise a taxi 🙂 or based on your situation – a friend or bike back to your original destination.
Let me know with any ideas on this guide. Hopefully it will be useful for you. I will continue with another one next day or so.
Have you traveled to Beijing ? If you have, then you will know what I am about to say — getting around the city is a real hassle. Why? Because the roads are congested, the air is polluted, and the taxi cab drivers sometimes just refuse to take passengers (yes, I know that does sound strange but it is true).
So what is the alternative if you are just visiting the city and have time to spare – i.e. you are not rushing to a business meeting… Yes, you guessed it – the alternative I would recommend is taking a bicycle ride.
A photo from Beijinger Magazine
Years ago, bicycles were ubiquitous in Beijing. There were waves of them moving about the city…Then its citizens discovered automobiles. The standard of living went up and so did the number of autos in the city – the number of vehicles grew so fast that today you have to wait for your number to be picked up in a sort of lottery in order for you to receive a license plate and even once you get that accomplished you will be able to drive only on odd or even days based on your license plate.
So. with that in mind in the next few postings will introduce you to some Beijing areas which are very comfortably seen and explored by bicycle.
Will cover those sections in the upcoming posting.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a summary on the bike sharing programs in Brussels, Belgium – a very well structured and what appeared as well used system of bikes, rent stations and of course people ready to leverage the service regularly.
So, on a recent trip to Beijing, I decided to take a look at the options for bike sharing in this city. This is actually an important topic. Why? for many reasons – As Beijing has grown, we have seen the following issues:
- Our ability to catch a taxi cab has become increasingly small — very frustrating experience indeed. Cabs appear to be fewer and fewer – in reality the population seeking their service has grown drastically
- Congestion on the city roads has become hurrendous — the various loop roads in Beijing resemble more and more a parking lot each morning and evening
- Because of the previous two bullets, might as well forget motor vehicles as a reliable transport for everyday small tasks!
So then we have to rely on the subway and…..bikes! Hence a bike sharing program is very much a necessity…
How does it work in Beijing? Well, here is the summary:
- You need to have a valid "Beijing Public Transport IC card"
- The card looks like
- You have to have enough funds in the card to be able to support a deposit of RMB400 plus fees for the ride each time;
- You have to your card registered for the program at one of these subway stations: TianTan DongMen, DongZhiMen, ChaoyangMen
- The fees for renting a bike are: first hour is free; RMB1/hr thereafter with a max of RMB10/day
There are apparently 14000 bikes for rent in the city. They are located at many stations throughout the city
I hope this program continues to operate in the future and grows. It is certaintly (I think ) badly needed in cities like Beijing. One observation (and some photos to attest to it) though — it was very disappointing to see non-program bikes being parked in the area of the bike sharing.
those are NOT the program bikes….People using the space for their bikes…
Yesterday I wrote about the growth of bicycle usage in several US cities over the last 3-4 years. So naturally, I thought, how d I capture the strange situation that is currently the state of transportation in Beijing….the place where there used to be a huge number of bicylces on the road every day. Just look at the photo below (courtesy of TheBeijinger magazine)
Life with Bicycles in Beijing
But I would not dare you to go with your bicycle here....
I am constantly amazed when I come across various travel blogs or tour agencies that tout the ability / opportunity to explore Beijing by bicycle…! I would not recommend it. Not in the current state of traffic in the city. I would say, you would be taking a severe risk. Why? Because there are so many vehicles on the streets of Bejing ! That they have displaced the venerable bicycles from its streets.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the city was certainly full of bicycles and those were the main transportation options. Nowadays those options are strongly deminished.
Just take a look at the photo below:
Where should the bicycles go???
May be find them here? No, not really....
Well, all in all I welcome inputs and feedback on what your opinion is….
In the mean time, I would like to see Beijing full of bicycles again.!