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Less bikes in China?

Well, I don’t really know if there are less bikes overall or not, but I do want to point out an observation from this trip. On past trips to China, I have posted several shots of various bikes on the street, including pictures of hundreds of bikes outside of factories that I have visited. Don’t get me wrong, bikes are still all over the place here, but I have noticed far less bicycles parked outside of some of the same factories where I had seen so many of them before. It seems that many of them have been replaced with mopeds, motorized scooters, motorcycles, and even electrobikes.

So what is driving this trend toward motorized two-wheeled transportation for the masses? I have two pretty good guesses. First traffic is getting worse and it is increasingly more dangerous to ride on the streets here in most places (especially the heavily industrialized ones). Secondly, the government has recently reformed the labor laws so that the average factory worker is making more money than a few years ago. I believe that that second reason has a lot to do with the shift from pure pedal powered transportation that I am noticing on this trip. That is just an opinion based on my observations though. I would love to hear from others who visit China often or, better yet, from some of you who live here. Are the number of bikes on the road declining as motorized options become more affordable to the masses?

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13 Responses

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  1. Anonymous says

    Argh. Fewer bikes in China.

  2. Ron says

    I find it funny that people here are cycling more but its the opposite elsewhere. If I were a Chinese, I’d fear my life and be in a car. Think pollution high traffic. Maybe they’ll go through exactly what we went through here, culminating in high fuel prices and people taking to their bicycles again!

  3. Ron says

    Enjoy your trip!

  4. jr98664 says

    The “One less bike” slogan drives me mad as well. It’s one bike fewer.

  5. Zhang says

    Here’s a Chinese speaking ;-)
    Yes there’s far more electric bikes sold than pedal powered bikes. A eletric bike usually cost only 2000RMB(300USD) and a cheap bike cost 300RMB(45USD). Most people can’t afford a car, and from normal bike to a electric bike is kind of an upgrade.

  6. Anonymous says

    Interesting James. Where are you in China ?, as that may be a factor.

  7. Anonymous says

    Hi, I have been living in China for the last 4 years, in the area I live in the goevernment has stopped issueing new liscences for mototbikes, and have made it illegal to have an electric bike. The aim is not so much to increase bicycle usage, but to get motorized petrol or electric off the road. I think they fear becomming a city like Hanoi that is heavily congested with motorbikes.

    So the reality where I am is that the use of bicycles has probably increased, and people are opting for smaller folding style bicycles.

    Long term the use of bicycles is going to be dependant of proper infrastructure being provided. Proper lanes for bikes, and suitable parking areas.

  8. Whassup says

    Another possible reason. If you ride bike in china, it is a sign that you don’t have much money. i.e. you are poor.

    Face-saving is very important in china.

  9. Anonymous says

    Another possible reason is the humidity here in Taiwan and Southern China.

    From what I understand is that Asian people mainly use their bike for commuting and shopping.

    Personally I find it very inconvenient riding a bike in this kind of climate.

    On the other hand I found out mountain biking is getting pretty popular in Taiwan. In Taiwan mountain area climate is much cooler.

  10. James says

    Yeah, I should have “fewer” grammatical errors on the blog, but I can’t promise anything. As long as I continue to write posts quickly without much editing, some pretty bad mistakes are bound to occur from time to time.

    Ron, I would probably be pretty nervous riding in parts of China too. Drivers don’t seem to be very patient with the slow moving cyclists on the roads

    Zhang, anon 11:04, and anon 9:46, thanks for the additional information and the local perspective on this. As someone who only travels there once a year, I appreciate hearing from those who live and ride in China.

    I wrote the post while I was in Changzhou, but mostly my observations were from places down south in the Pearl River delta area. A couple daysafter I wrote the post I was in Shanghai and I did see a higher percentage of bicycles than down south, possibly due to restrictions aimed to decrease the use of motorbikes. I read something in the local English language paper about efforts to increase bicycle use in Shanghai and Bejing. I know that car use is already restricted in both of those cities, so maybe bicycle will remain strong or even increase in the urban centers.

    In the years that I have been traveling to China, I have seen an incredible increase in traffic and it will only get worse as the percentage of the population who own cars continues to increase. As whassup indicated, bicycles are viewed by some as a symbol of poverty, but hopefully that attitude will change as people experince the problems of car culture in a heavily populated place.

    On this trip, I saw a few lycra clad cyclists on road bikes and went by the Trek store in Shanghai. Good or bad, I think that emergence of cycling as a recreational activity is a sign that attitudes about bikes are changing in the country. I never saw anything like that in China 5, or even 3, years ago.

  11. Texmob says

    maybe people are just getting more and more lazy

  12. electric bikes says

    This is so cool! What a smart looking bicycle. And thanks for all the information.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. My latest observations from China | Bicycle Design linked to this post on February 28, 2010

    [...] I want to share a few general observations about bicycle use in China. Some of you may remember a post from September of 2008 in which I said that there seemed to be less bikes overall on the roads (I realize I should have [...]

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