|Bikes get shafted in China||HAL9010|
Sep 6, 2002 8:59 AM
|There is an article today in the New York Times (6 Sep 02) on "The Plight of Bicycles in China Today" titled "Today's China, in a Rush, Has No Time for Bikes." |
It is at:
Interesting parallels to US bike plight as well as lessons to be learned.
Discuss it amongst your self's
|The plight of bikes in China will have to wait...||biknben|
Sep 6, 2002 9:27 AM
|...because NYTimes insists you have to log in to read it. When site require you to log in, I ask myself it is really worth the bother. I'll wait to read about it on Velonews.
Sorry Hal (end of rant)
|OK, here it is. Pt.1||HAL9010|
Sep 6, 2002 9:40 AM
|I prefer the path of least resistance too: |
September 6, 2002 Today's China, in a Rush, Has No Time for Bikes
By JOSEPH KAHN
HANGHAI, Sept. 5 - Li Yingjuan stared defiantly ahead as she pedaled her rugged Forever three-speed along a busy Shanghai street, ignoring the heavy-footed taxi drivers revving for the chance to overtake her.
She might once have glided on unperturbed in this land of the bicycle. But not in today's Shanghai. Before long, a policeman on a motorcycle was riding hard on her shoulder, squeezing her onto the sidewalk. "Bicycles are forbidden on this road," he shouted over the din of morning rush hour. "Next time, you get a fine."
Just a few years ago, the proletarian bicycle seemed an indelible part of the streetscape, as emblematic of China as the giant panda and the Great Wall. Yet seemingly overnight, authorities have begun treating bikes as nuisances, with government planners giving right of way to taxis, buses, subways and, increasingly, the private car.
Determined bicyclists and environmentalists lament the fading of a half-century tradition of commuting on two wheels, particularly as belching autos create an ashen haze over many Chinese cities. But government planners appear to have no more love for bikes than post-World War II Los Angeles had for its streetcars.
China has spent billions of dollars to convert Shanghai's European-style warren of row houses and winding lanes into a Jetsonian vision of modernity. Elevated expressways now weave through a forest of glass and metal. Arching suspension bridges and their on-ramps spiral over the Art Deco facades of colonial-era waterfront banks.
The city has so far banned bicycles on 54 major roads and made no provision for people to ride or carry bikes across the Huangpu River to Pudong, the city's new financial and industrial center. Big round signs showing a bike with a red slash through the middle warn riders away from many intersections. Traffic police dole out five-yuan fines (60 cents) to violators as part of a campaign that seems intended to force workers off their bikes and onto buses and the city's new three-line subway system, which already has rush-hour crushes that rival Tokyo's.
Pushing her bike through a crowd of pedestrians after being expelled from Huashan Road, Ms. Li, a 48-year-old shop assistant, said: "You can't ride. You can't cross the streets. You can't park. Bicycling has become too inconvenient."
It takes Mao Hanwen, a 22-year-old trading company worker, about an hour and a half to commute by subway and bus to her job in a distant free trade zone. One recent morning she wore a pink silk blouse and browsed a newspaper on the tightly packed but air-conditioned subway. She does not own a bicycle. "Bicycles are for old people and children," she said. "My generation does not ride to work."
|Here is Pt. 2||HAL9010|
Sep 6, 2002 9:44 AM
|The bicycle culture became ingrained in China after the Communist revolution in 1949, when workers lived close to their state-run factories or offices, public transportation was rudimentary and taxis were an unheard-of capitalist indulgence. Urban prosperity created by economic reforms in the 1980's and early 1990's reinforced the trend at first. Any worker with decent prospects owned at least one Forever or Phoenix, the dominant Shanghai brands, forged from industrial steel and weighing nearly as much as some riders. The well-off sprang for alloy models with multiple gears, headlights, soft suspensions and leather seats. At peak production in 1995, Chinese companies churned out 30 million new bicycles. |
They ruled the road. Riders filled generous bike lanes and spilled onto the main drag, peddling 8 or 10 abreast. Rush-hour traffic enforced a communal ethos, as those going too fast, too slow or making sudden turns instantly disrupted the flow. A 1994 cover of National Geographic magazine captured an irrepressible image: a seamless parade of riders streaming down Nanjing Road, a central Shanghai street, clad in a kaleidoscope of red, green, blue, pink and yellow ponchos on a gray, rainy afternoon.
Yet even as it reached its apex, commuting on bicycles had begun slipping from favor. Like most other major cities, Shanghai ordered factories to move to industrial zones on the outskirts, freeing up land for real estate development at the core. Hundreds of thousands of inner-city resident were relocated to satellite suburbs and housed in concrete high-rises, often many miles from their jobs.
White-collar workers dressed for business meetings had less tolerance for long commutes through polluted air, battling increasing car traffic. In 1993, a record 350 people died in bicycle crashes in the city. Authorities initially debated whether to designate some streets as bicycle-only to reduce fatalities. But the alluring economics of auto production - far more steel and rubber go into a 4,000-pound car than a 50-pound bike - dictated the outcome. It was bikes that found fewer places to travel.
Feng Hui, an accountant at the Andros Fruit Company, needs two bikes. She rides one between a subway stop in western Shanghai and her office, locking it overnight. The other she rides back and forth from the bus stop about a mile from her apartment, on the eastern side of the Huangpu River. She still faces bikeless stretches in both places and has to dismount on the sidewalks. "It's still a bit faster, even if you have to push in some places," she said, putting on her sunglasses as she prepared for the first leg of her trip home. "If I'm really in a hurry, I'll ride the whole time and risk the fine."
Others just give up. While the number of jobs in the greater Shanghai area has soared in the last 10 years, the number of workers commuting on bicycle has fallen by about 25 percent over the same period, to just over three million from about four million daily, according to the Shanghai City Transportation Planning Institute. Nationally, China still has some 550 million bikes, two for every American, and Shanghai alone has six million registered bike owners. So bicycles will not disappear anytime soon. But the once robust bike industry has suffered a heavy blow. Phoenix Company of Shanghai has seen sales plunge 50 percent so far this year. It has set its sights on Bangladesh, where it sees brighter prospects for growth.
Copyright The New York Times Company
Now go get a log on to one of the best papers in the world! (end of my rant)
|Semi Related: Anyone see "Beijing Bicycle"||Steve_O|
Sep 6, 2002 10:28 AM
|Last weekend I got Beijing Bicycle... A pretty cool movie about a rural worker who moves to the city and gets a job as a bicycle messenger.
From the looks of it Beijing isn't quite as modern as Shanghai; however, the results of the movie are the same - The bicycle loses...