In 1986, 60 percent of the citizens of Beijing rode bikes; now 17 percent do. In an age in which every industrialized nation with even the slightest desire to get through the 21st century with its oil-dependent economy intact is ramping up efforts to make its cities more bike friendly, China is undergoing a grand reversal, a de-bikification on a scale only China could manage.
The reasons have little to do with energy and everything to do with culture, reports Debra Bruno in The Atlantic Cities.
To many Chinese, bikes are now for losers.
“There is a quote: ‘I would rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bike,'” says Jinhua Zhao, an urban planning professor at the University of British Columbia who’s conducting a study of cycling in Beijing.
Personally, I’d rather stay healthy and get to work on time, but whatevs, not like that has convinced 99 out of 100 Americans, either. Of course, there is one demographic in China who has remained enthusiastic about cycling — foreigners.
More foreign residents, tired of the difficulty of finding a cab, fighting the crowds on the subway and buses, or figuring out how to pass the test for a Chinese driver’s license, are turning to bicycles. Expats, it turns out, love to wax rhapsodic about the romance of biking in Beijing.
So Beijing may be the one place on the planet where Americans bike more than non-Americans. Although, tellingly, the bike-happy expat quoted in this piece is a Brit.