13 August 2012
Cycle Chic Postcard – Beijing
When I lived in Beijing (1994 to 99) there were masses of bicycles in the streets. Private cars were virtually non-existent. Not so today. The bikes are all but gone.
Instead hundreds of thousands of private vehicles flood the streets. While the – excellent – Metro sweeps up a large part of the remaining commuters (alas - no bikes allowed here).
It’s a pity because it was plain to see it coming. I remember discussing traffic planning with Beijing officials. They complained about having “too many bicycles”. My reply? “Just wait until you have too many cars…”.
The situation will not change any time soon. But there’s still hope. First, because nearly all Chinese still learn how to bike. Second, because the Chinese are actually pretty smart urban planners – they have noticed the surge in urban cycling elsewhere.
But most importantly, the City’s extensive bicycle infrastructure remains widely intact. I hope that the cyclists come back before cars are allowed to encroach on all that precious space.