I have been thinking about buying a bicycle this past week, both for exercise and transportation purposes. It might take a while for an idea to become reality, but I am determined to make it happen this summer.
Bicycle was the main form of transportation in China as I grew up in the 70s and 80s. There were hardly any private cars on the road back then. We relied on bus/tram/bicycles/feet to move about in the city. I remember a few popular bicycle brands – Phoenix, Forever, and Flying Pigeon. Most households owned one or two for adults to go to and from work, to buy groceries, and to carry children around. They were simple one-gear bicycles with baskets and/or child seats attached. Fancy racing and mountain bikes didn’t appear until much later.
When the traffic lights turned green on a major street, the massive flow of bicycles were a great scene to see. People were very skillful and managed not to bump into each other. Snow and ice didn’t stop us in the winter. The longest trip I ever did on my bike was an impromptu ride with a few college friends from Changchun to Gongzhuling (about 65 km) and it took us about 5 hours, half of which on pitch dark hilly country roads. Thinking back, we were quite adventurous!
During my recent trip to Scandinavia, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many bicycles on the road, particularly in Copenhagen. I was specially delighted to see plain city bikes similar to what I grew up with:
And here is the parking lot near one of the train or metro stations:
I couldn’t help thinking, China probably would be better off switching back to the era when most people were on bikes – when there were hardly any air quality or traffic jam or obesity issues. And how I am longing to see this picture in cities of the United States. One thing I need to do before getting my bicycle is to scope out the routes around my house to make sure there are sufficient sidewalks/trails for safe bike rides. I am hoping…