Tag Archives: active transportation

Beijing Bicycle – posted by Lauren

There was a ton of excitement over Portland’s bike share announcement last week, so it only seems fitting to post about Beijing’s bike share system. I’m glad to hear the Portland system will finally be rolling out, and those green bikes are dead sexy. The Tilikum Crossing, bike share, legal weed, y’all are getting all the nice things now that I’m gone.

The logo for Beijing Public Bikes, featured prominently in the campaign for ‘don’t drive to work alone day’ on September 22.

The logo for Beijing Public Bikes, featured prominently in the campaign for ‘don’t drive to work alone day’ on September 22.


The bikes here are red, because everything is red.  

The bikes here are red, because everything is red.

I was debating whether or not to sign up for bike share here. Public transit can get you anywhere you need to go, but I miss riding a bike! The parade blue is gone, but the fall rains have started and the pollution drops after a heavy rain. This past weekend was relatively clear (from rain and smog) so I decided our Sunday outing to the old summer palace should happen by bike.

In my opinion the best feature by far is that you use your transit card to rent a bike. The municipally owned system really is an extension of the transit network.

Good on subways, buses, and public bikes! Modern living indeed.  

Good on subways, buses, and public bikes! Modern living indeed.

But before you can take a bike for a spin you have to enroll your transit card in the bike share system. This can only be done at a few locations during certain hours. They require a 400 yuan refundable deposit (about $60) and some paperwork, which is translated in English. I had my husband Eli with me who speaks Chinese so it was a seamless process. (Yes, I’m completely cheating at this whole being immersed in a foreign language thing. An intern from 2011 recounts what it will be like for the rest of you.)

After your card is activated for bike share all you have to do is swipe it at the docking station. The price is unbelievably cheap. The first hour is free, and every hour after that is 1 yuan (about 15 cents). The maximum amount you can be charged is 10 yuan (about $1.50), for the entire day!


Ready to roll. Note the empty docking stations, this one must be popular.

Ready to roll. Note the empty docking stations, this one must be popular.

As for the bikes themselves, we ran into a few problems. The brakes didn’t really work on the two bikes we selected, but the main issue was the size. I’m 5’9 and Eli is 6’2 and even with the seats as high as they would go we just didn’t fit. Our plan to ride to the summer palace (about 7 miles away) was quickly dashed because it would not have been a comfortable ride. The average height here might be shorter than us, but we have seen plenty of tall people, so I wonder how they manage.

Its got a bell, a basket, a cable lock, and questionable brakes, only an issue if you plan on stopping.

Its got a bell, a basket, a cable lock, and questionable brakes, only an issue if you plan on stopping.

Tall man, little bike.

Tall man, little bike.

We did take a spin around the neighborhood for the requisite photo shoot. There is usually a separate lane for two-wheeled traffic and car parking on major streets, so that is definitely a win. You do have to share this space with motorbikes and utility trikes but it is much less stressful than riding next to traffic. There are also a ton of e-bikes here, used for delivery and everyday transit. Permanent or temporary separation, both are appreciated.

tree separation temp separation



As far as the biking culture in Beijing goes, this recap from 2011 is still accurate. Still no helmets, lights, or cycling clothes in sight. I was struck by the lack of bike racks. On the street where I live there are just painted boxes on the sidewalk. People either don’t lock their bike at all or just lock one of the wheels so it can’t be rolled away. Apparently this is the bike parking situation in Shenzhen as well. This obviously wouldn’t fly in Portland since you could just pick the bike up to steal it. A possible theft deterrent could be that most people here ride rusty old bikes that look like they haven’t been maintained since the 1980s. I’ve seen a couple flashy new ones, but they are few and far between.

bike box

I’m accustomed to real bike racks but bike infrastructure that is just paint, here the parking is just paint but the infrastructure is real.

locked wheel

Apparently this works?

The bike share system debuted in 2011 and now has over 40,000 bikes available at stations concentrated in the central city and a few suburban enclaves. I had trouble finding current information on ridership rates, but this article from 2013 reports that ridership was low in the first year. I see a lot of mostly empty docking stations, so perhaps ridership has gone up in the past two years.

Hopefully this system can help reclaim some of the mode share that was lost to the car takeover. It is really a story that is too sad to tell – the Kingdom of Bicycles reduced to a honking, gridlocked fiasco. Apparently these days it is all about form over function. You’ve got to love the quote from a woman who would rather be crying in a BMW than laughing on a bicycle. Well, she’s got plenty of time to cry when she’s stuck in traffic while the bicycles roll on by.

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Barriers, Barriers, Barriers – Being a Pedestrian in Shenzhen -Rae-Leigh

What I can’t keep my mind off of is transportation! I love looking at how people get around – do they look comfortable, do they look stressed, or are they going about their day and enjoying their travel? In Shenzhen people are everywhere. The sidewalks are crowded and the streets are overflowing with cars, people, buses, scooters, and bikes. If you give people the space, they will be there. Yet, with all the people in China, limited space, and a low car ownership (11% according to Ministry of Public Security statistics), the majority of the space on city streets has been planned for cars.

Shenzhen began to develop in the early 80s. The city was designed with the car on the forefront of the plans and it was at the peak of the economic boom in China. I have found it difficult to walk around some parts of Shenzhen. There are many physical barriers and bollards separating people from streets, only some of the intersections have ramps on them, and broken sidewalks are in abundance. The barriers and bollards are used to prevent cars and scooters from riding on the sidewalks. I don’t know the solution for this issue, but police enforcement to change the behavior of the drivers might result in change.

Bollards-01 Barriers-01

If I find it difficult as an able-bodied person, I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone with a physical disability or even a stroller. Throughout the city and others in China, the sidewalks have a strip of textured concrete indicating to someone who is vision impaired that this is the correct route to take. They thought this through, and from what I can tell, it’s a mainstream form of transportation planning throughout China. Other than this textured strip, many other details have gotten lost. While ADA in the US is not perfect, it has paved the way for people to get around more easily. There are some details that I wish were applied here, including the minimum walkway width of 5 feet and required curb ramps at intersections.

 Passing Width-01

Trip Hazard-01

At some of the busiest intersections, white fence-like barriers are placed all over the intersection to prevent people from crossing the road. Instead of providing street-level crosswalks, a series of pedestrian tunnels were built to cross the roads. These tunnels are dark, uninviting, and are uncomfortable places to walk. It’s quite confusing to navigate and it requires you to have the ability to walk down stairs. I have no idea what it costs or how long it takes to build tunnels like that, but I think a better solution would be to provide crosswalks, refuge islands, and other infrastructure at these intersections instead of requiring people to travel underground.

Tunnel System-01

In China, I have ridden on some of the best metro systems. You can take the subway anywhere and everywhere. It is super easy to navigate, the user experience as been well thought out, and the system is very efficient. I’m definitely not saying the transportation system is bad here, but I do wish some of the same thoughts were spent on moving pedestrians around on city streets. I love walking around my neighborhood and throughout the city! There is so much to look at, different smells to smell, and people to watch. Shenzhen is a great city to enjoy by foot, but it would be much more enjoyable if you didn’t continually have to watch your step or figure out how to maneuver around the many barriers.



According to last National Population Census of China (2010), Shenzhen is 5th largest city in the country with urban population within administrative city limits – 10.4 million. This data includes only long-term residents and excludes suburban and rural populations. Shenzhen is home to millions of migrants and it is largest migrant city in China, so population statistics are controversial and even 15 million, indicated in other sources, could potentially be an underestimate.

Dominant Mode of Transportation

1- transportation - cars

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