There’s been much in the news in the last years about China, particularly Beijing, abandoning the bicycles they’re so famous for in the name of “progress”. Like other modern, industrialized countries the automobile would be the transportation of China’s future. Naturally we liberal-minded cyclists reacted (amongst ourselves that is) with horror that the Chinese would behave so badly as the citizens of our own countries, thereby wreaking havoc on practically everything.
But lately the tide seems to have turned. I read some months ago (in an article I can’t remember) that China’s national minister of transportation had sharp words about Beijing’s anti-bicycle policies. He made statements to the effect that their bicycle use was not only practical and envivonmentally friendly, but also that its an important part of China’s identity and culture. Perhaps he also pointed out how the bicycle so strongly represents the Communist Party’s egalitarian philosophy… though I didn’t actually read that part.
The evidence for today is that Beijing is busy completing a system of 50,000 rental bikes for the upcoming Olympic Games. From Bike Europe, a website for the trade:
50,000 rental bikes for Chinese capital
BEIJING, China – The first 31 in a series of 200 bicycle rental stations have been opened in Beijing. The remaining will be open by next year’s Olympics, and there will be more than 50,000 bikes for rent. These bike rental stations are a parts of the government’s program to ensure clean air for next year’s Olympics.
The system works very easily. People can dial a hotline number to reserve a bike. And, if the bike you rent breaks down, you can go to the nearest station to swop it for another. The rental stations are located at subway stations, bus stops, commercial areas and the Olympics venues.
Following the success of the car reduction test event, which ended yesterday and recorded four consecutive days of Grade II air quality, the government unveiled a new bike rental scheme to maintain the momentum.
The city council hopes a new bike promotion campaign will meet equal popularity and reinforce Beijing’s status as the capital of the “Kingdom of the Bicycle”.
Published @ 22-08-2007
Fifty thousand bikes sounds like an awful lot, though this is Beijing so some might regard it as mostly symbolic, or for show, or basically for the Olympic visitors. Time will tell.
Original article can be found here though unfortunately with no cool pictures of 50,000 red bikes lined up ready for use.