Cyclists seek healthy benefits from bikes

 

A citizen rides a bike across the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing on April 8, 2013. Photo by Wang Yueling

A pedestrian walks past the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing on February 28, 2013. Photo by Wang Yueling

 

A pedestrian takes a photograph of artist Matt Hope who wears a helmet as he rides his air filtration bike on a hazy day in Beijing, on March 26, 2013. Using an IKEA perforated garbage can, moped helmet, fighter-pilot breathing mask, wheel-powered generator and home air filtration system, Beijing-based artist Matt Hope built a “breathing bicycle” as a way of protecting himself from air pollution. While pedalling, electricity is generated for the power to activate the system to filter out haze and provide the rider with clean air, local media reported. According to the U.S. embassy monitor, the air quality that day was classified as “very unhealthy”. Photo by Petar Kujundzic

 

By Liu Lu and Mao Zhenhua

With a growing number of automobiles clogging up Chinese roads, many people are getting on their bikes — not for the daily commute to work but for exercise and recreation.

Twenty-five-year-old Qian Lu, a Beijing postgraduate, started long-distance cycling in 2009. He sometimes rides more than 200 kilometers a day.

“I like the sport as I get to see beautiful scenery,” said Qian. “Last year I bought a second-hand mountain bike for 1,200 yuan (193 U.S. dollars) to further cultivate my zest for cycling.”

However, Qian said that he would not consider riding to work, as expensive bikes are prone to be stolen in cities, as well as smog and gales being unhelpful when riding.

Added to this, bike lanes are usually used by cars, which makes it dangerous for cyclists, he said.

China had the reputation of “the kingdom of bicycles” in the 1980s and 1990s. During this time each city family had at least one bicycle.

The picture of large groups of people stopping at red lights on their bicycles spread around the world. However, this image is now rarely seen in cities, and China has turned to “a country on the wheels” with the boom of automobiles in the last decade.

According to figures by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), China overtook the United States to become the world’s largest automaker and auto market in 2009.

As of 2012, it has remained the world’s largest producer and market for automobiles for the fourth consecutive year, with both sales and output exceeding 19 million units. Car ownership nationwide has reached 120 million, with an annual growth of 15.1 million, CAAM said.

Last year, 82.8 million bicycles were produced in the country. This is lower than the peak of bike production and the trend is decreasing, according to the China Bicycle Association.

However, Liu Xuequan, director with the research and development department of Battle, one of the largest bicycle producers, is confident in the future of bikes, as “seen abroad, developed countries have the tendency to use more bikes.”

“Bicycle customers have turned from being working class to the higher classes, and functions including exercising and relaxing are gradually becoming new features of bike use,” said Liu.

Liu added, “Bike sales will increase with the development of people’s awareness for health and environmental protection, even though cars presently dominate the market.”

Cyclists may want to get on their bikes but like Qian Lu they are deterred.

Since the beginning of the year, smog has engulfed large areas of the country, mostly in its central and eastern regions, with polluted air lingering for days.

Earlier this month, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) announced that the country had its smoggiest March in 52 years, with an average of 3.3 smoggy days nationwide, 1.1 days more than the same period for previous years.

Experts have confirmed that excessive emissions from motor vehicles, coal-burning and cooking contribute to the smog.

So far, thousands of microblogs have called for a cleaner environment and a cleaner way of commuting and traveling.

“I have my Chinese dream which is to live with less smog, less polluted water and lower house prices,” said economist Han Zhiguo, on his microblog on sina.com.

Vice Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Qiu Baoxing also published a signed article to appeal for more bike riders in cities as they help reduce pollution and use less road space than cars.

Gong Xiaoyan, chief of the Tianjin Bicycle and Electrocar Association, said while common bicycles priced at about 300 yuan are unmarketable, bikes as expensive as 10,000 yuan for each are popular, particularly during summer holidays.

“More Chinese people consider bicycles as part of their healthy needs,” said Gong. “However, faced with the new trend of getting back on bikes, the Chinese bicycle sector still has a long way to go.” 

 

 

Bike rental program launched in Beijing

By Xia Xiao

Beijing has begun trialing a bicycle rental system, giving residents and visitors access to 2,000 bikes at 63 locations in the city, with plans to increase the number of rental bikes to 50,000 by 2015, according to the Beijing government.

To encourage residents to cyclewhen traveling short distances, rental bikes will be free for the first hour, with a charge of 1 yuan (0.15 U.S. dollar) per hour after that. The fee for a whole day won’t exceed 10 yuan.

Residents and tourists can rent the bikes in kiosks with their ID cards or copies.

The announcement said 10,000 more rental bikes will be made available in the second half of the year.

China’s capital has about 5 million vehicles on its roads, leading to serious traffic congestion that frustrates the city’s residents on a daily basis.

To ease traffic congestion, Beijing has made various efforts to encourage people to quit driving cars. 

 

 

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