Beijing Bicyles

Bike at Tiananmen
My friend’s bike in front of Tiananmen.

“Beijing Bicycles” is the title of a 2001 movie, but bikes are also the most important means for Beijingers to get from one place to another. There might be fewer bicycles and more cars and motorbikes as well as electrified bikes now compared to some years ago, but the bike remains dominant in a picture of a typical street.

There are all kinds of bicycles: Old ones that you would not expect to be ridable, new ones that need more than one lock to not get stolen, small ones with really small tyres and large ones that can transport large amounts of goods.

Bike shops
Bike shops near my place.

New bikes can be bought from 300 yuan, about 30 Euros. But there is a large market of second (or third) hand bikes although it is forbidden to commercially sell used bikes. Next to the university is a street with several bike shops. When I got my bike there it was not problem so get some changes made very quickly. The man who sold me my bike was a really good repair-person: He changed pedals, adjusted the breaks and shifting as well as the saddle in just a few minutes.
At his shop were also his wife helping him. Their about four year old son was playing between the bikes, the shop itself was heated with coal, that was heated up outside, then brought inside once it was hot enough.

It does not make a lot of sense to buy a bike that is new and too expensive because stealing seems to be very common. According to former students of ECCS, as well as to Chinese students currently enrolled at Beida, there was virtually nobody whose bike has never been stolen – so I simply hope I can use my bike for as long as possible so I can use the faster way to get from home to university.

Bike shop
My bike is being prepared for sale.

So far my blue bike has been a great help on the way to classes because I save a lot of time and money because I don’t have to wait for a bus or pay a taxi. But it’s also fun to ride in the city, although it’s probably not very healthy (because of the bad air)… Today I rode my bike to Tiananmen together with my roommate, it took us quite a while, but we chose small side streets and we discovered a lot of Beijings hutong streets.

Remember what I was writing about the chaotic traffic with the constant sound of honking? Actually I still think that it sometimes is really chaotic, but at the same time you see the traffic from a different perspective once you become a participant. Although the “rules” known in Europe are often ignored, you get a feeling when a car will make a turn or where the cars and buses are going to and whether you need to wait or whether you can cross the street even you have a red light.

Bike in Beijing
Actually this biker was going in the wrong direction when I took this photo, but it’s also common to use the wrong way of the road if you don’t need to go very far.

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One Response to “Beijing Bicyles”

  1. robyn Says:

    Mat,

    Hi. Reza sent me the link to your blog. Taryn loves biking. She is in San Francisco currently doing an internship for a design consultancy. She was working on the design of a small airplane. At any rate she loves biking. It is a really nice way to travel around the city. I had Reza send the connection of your blog to Taryn. I thought she might want to read your comments. She had a bike stolen two times in SanFrancisco. Now she does not leave it locked up in the street overnight.

    David will be flying to Shanghai (sp?) in mid to late April for the Auto Show. He will also be going to Frankfurt (sp?) in Early September. I might join him for that trip. I have never been to Germany.

    Reza sent me the pictures of you when you were in Taiwan. David and I were there 12 years ago. We only speak english so it made travel difficult. There are a lot of bikes there, as well as scooters. We usually went to places by taxi and always carried a card of our hotel. Their written luanguage is unrecognizable for us. Rreza says you are also learning to write their luanguage. You have a gift.

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