End of an Era as China bans bike lanes in Shanghai

This is not just a story about bicycles, but of Shanghai’s dramatic evolution in recent years.

Succumbing at last to the worldwide love affair with the car, China – of all places – is officially turning up its nose at the humble bicycle.
Its biggest city, Shanghai, plans to ban bikes from all major roads next year to ease congestion, state-run newspapers said on Tuesday.

It’s not just the weather Shanghai cyclists now have to contend with. Police will also raise fines tenfold for such cycling infractions as running red lights, Shanghai Daily reported.

Once hailed as the perfect form of proletarian transport, the bicycle used to reign supreme in China as undisputed king of the road.

One of the interviewed cyclists predicts the ban will simply be ignored, and they’ll just ride on the sidewalks if they need to.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

Major thoroughfares such as Huai Hai, Hengshan and Nanjing West Roads are already off-limits to bicycles. But that doesn’t stop people riding along the footpaths. Personally I’m more in favour of getting bad drivers off the road.

December 10, 2003 @ 8:37 am | Comment

Well, cars do have certain advantages over bikes … check out this story I found in the Sydney Morning Herald (www.smh.com.au) (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/12/09/1070732212177.html)

Incidentally, does anyone know this guy Hamish McDonald? He’s by far the best reporter I’ve come across on matters concerning China.

Sex in cars confronts Chinese police
By Hamish McDonald
December 10, 2003
China’s massive increase in car ownership has left police wondering what to do about couples having sex in them. Xinhua news agency has reported an upsurge of in-car sexual activity in Guangzhou. The city’s Baiyunshan park was a focus for the evening activities. Local police said they could only ask frisky couples to leave the park. A city lawyer, Gan Mingyong, said it was not clear whether the behaviour was illegal. “A private car provides a specific private space for its owner to exercise his or her own human rights.”

December 10, 2003 @ 9:31 am | Comment

They have been making life difficult for pedestrians and bicycle riders for ages now: Taking out segregated lanes for bikes, installing fences that run down the middle of streets, and forcing bikes to cross intersections only at pedestrian bridges (bridges that are way higher than they need to be). Making life difficult for pedestrians and riders only forces people into cars…and traffic.

Mewanwhile, Guangzhou will actually start encouraging the purchases of cars: “Zhang said the government would not limit car ownership but instead would introduce more favorable policies to encourage car purchases. Meanwhile, the traffic problem is worsening because of increasing number of automobiles. The government would put more effort into building roads and subways and strengthen transportation management, said the mayor. The restriction on motor cycles would remain and car exhaust emission controls would be intensified, the mayor said.”



December 10, 2003 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

Heh… the Americanization of China continues apace. The U.S. has had an official policy of “encouraging car purchases” for the last 50 years or so.

Meanwhile, many places in Europe are moving in the opposite direction — car-free zones in inner cities are proliferating, and even such bike-unfriendly places as Paris and Brussels are investing heavily in bike- and bus-lane construction.

OTOH, I can certainly sympathize with the Chinese authorities’ desire to crack down on renegade bicyclists. Here in Amsterdam, they’re an absolute menace.

December 10, 2003 @ 6:14 pm | Comment

I was wondering if perhaps cycle lanes were still unknown in China, but now it turns out that they’re removing them. I remember reading, several years ago, about how Shanghai was building five-lane highways to accomodate the traffic levels that they anticipated would arise, instead of trying to prevent congestion before it happened.

December 10, 2003 @ 8:56 pm | Comment

vaara> I agree with you regarding America’s auto-oriented policies. China should definitely not learn from the US regarding urban planning.

December 11, 2003 @ 9:02 am | Comment

Not to be overdramatic, but if car ownership in China ever reaches U.S. or even European levels, the world’s oil production might not be sufficient to meet demand. It’s been said that Central Asian and Middle Eastern oil will one day become a major cause of conflict between China and the West, and it’s not difficult to imagine that happening. Soon.

I happen to love cars, and driving, and I’d be the last person to begrudge a newly-prosperous Chinese person the opportunity to enjoy life behind the wheel, but the reality is that China’s infrastructure and environment might simply be unable to cope. Just imagine, say, Los Angeles multiplied by ten thousand.

December 11, 2003 @ 4:55 pm | Comment

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