China has long been known as the world’s center for bicycles. According to a publication by the Earth Policy Institute, although there has been a rapid multiplication of cars in China over the past few decades, the bicycle remains an important means of individual mobility for hundreds of millions of Chinese. Why is cycling still popular in China?
Uber for bikes
One major reason behind the ongoing interest in bicycling in China has been the introduction of “Uber for Bikes.” This is a unique service being offered by a whole host of new startups, aggressively competing for territory and investment.
The service is straightforward enough in theory. A user downloads an app that tells him or her where to find a bicycle. They next unlock the bike by scanning a QR code on their phone or by using a combination that they receive. The best feature about this service is that the user need not return the bike to a fixed docking station. A rider can leave the bike wherever the journey ends.
Uber for Bikes has re-invigorated bicycles as a means of transportation in China. After decades of decline, when a whole generation embraced the private car, these sharing apps have made cycling cool again in China. People no longer have to spend money on bikes they only use once or twice a week. They can rent a bike any time and enjoy the health benefits of cycling, in addition to being able to get to their destination much faster and more affordably compared to personal cars or taxis.
Cycling in China became popular not by choice, but as a necessity for commuters. Snarled traffic jams are what distinguish most cities in China. And that’s despite a plethora of affordable public transportation options and anti-traffic legislation in many cities that mandates that cars with even- and odd-numbered license plates must drive on alternating days. Of course, China’s urban traffic jams are also a major factor in its pollution problems. As residents get fed up with the gridlock, the best way forward is cycling.
Watch this video of an insane traffic jam as Beijing residents attempt to return home after Lunar New Year celebrations in their hometowns:
Another element that has made cycling more popular in China is the introduction of electric bikes. These are relatively inexpensive to buy and cost between US$125 and US$375. The daily operating cost is 21 cents, which is about 1/20 of the cost of operating a car in China. The e-bikes are also fast and reduce the fatigue element that is linked to bicycles.
Homer Johnson is a fitness instructor in his local gym. His hobbies are cycling, mountain climbing, surfing, and white-water rafting. Aside from that, he also likes reading and writing. Most of his articles are about electric bikes, breathtaking activities, extreme sports, and other related topics. Despite his busy schedule, he sees to it that he is always fit and healthy. Follow him on Twitter at: prodecotechbike