Bikers of Beijing Arise!

This week the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s largest English language newspaper had a great article on the battle between bikes and cars in Beijing.  I could relate since I’m one of those who still tries to ride my bike where ever I can.  And in this city that sees 1000 new cars added to the roads everyday, it is getting increasingly dangerous.  It certainly isn’t the bicycle friendly city that it used to be!  Unfortunately, the article is behind the Post’s subscription fire wall, so I can’t link to it.  The article, written by David Eimer, is called "Pedal Power."  I’ve pasted it in below.

The course for the Beijing
Olympics cycling road race was announced last week and the world’s top
cyclists are in for a torrid time. After starting from Tiananmen
Square, the route heads through the northern suburbs before reaching
the Great Wall. That’s when it gets nasty, with the riders covering
five punishing circuits of nearby hills.

But at least the
cyclists won’t have to cope with the Beijing traffic. The roads will be
cleared of cars, just as they were for the recent China-Africa Forum,
when government vehicles were banned for the duration of the
conference. For the 2.4 million Beijingers who cycle to work, that’s a
dream scenario.

The reality,
though, is more like a nightmare. It’s a daily round of dodging
incompetent car drivers, footpath-shy pedestrians and of navigating
blocked cycle lanes.

In Woody Allen’s  film Annie Hall, the diehard New Yorker famously said that the main attraction of Los Angeles is that you can turn right on a red light.

Well, you can do
that in Beijing, too, and it’s just another of the pernicious
advantages that car drivers enjoy over cyclists in the capital.
Beijing’s drivers think nothing of turning right without looking, which
inevitably results in riders screeching to a halt as a car comes within
centimetres of crushing grounded toes. With 2.7 million cars on
Beijing’s roads, a number growing by 1,000 a day, it would be easy for
cyclists to give up the struggle.

But some of us are fighting back.

A survey of Beijing
cyclists last month found that 90 per cent felt their rights were being
ignored or infringed on. We pay taxes too, was the refrain, so why
can’t we have car-free cycle lanes? It’s not much to ask for, not when
bike lanes have shrunk to a mere couple of metres wide as roads are
widened for yet more cars.

Last week, one
commentator described the capital’s cyclists as being treated like
"unwanted step-children". In April, Liang Congjie , a member of the
Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, put forward a
motion calling for "concrete efforts" to restore proper bike lanes.
Even Beijing’s municipal government has taken a step in the right
direction by lifting the ban on electric bicycles.

Some, though, feel
more direct action is needed. In late October, a brave foreign woman
took a stand. Frustrated by the presence of cars in the cycle lane, she
got off her bike and blocked the traffic. One car driver was so
incensed that he got out and hurled her bike away.

Unfortunately for
him, the incident was filmed by a passer-by and swiftly circulated on
the internet. The resulting publicity saw the driver forced to make a
grovelling apology on Beijing TV.

If car drivers won’t abide by traffic laws, then maybe public humiliation is the only way forward.

Let the bikers arise!!