GETTING around in a city with over 24 million people can be hard and tricky, but luckily we are spoilt with choices like shared bikes which are increasingly enjoying an edge over Metro.
“Cycling is an ancestral culture in China, but it reached a new level with the shared bike era,” says Francis Hau, an avid cyclist and founder of the Shanghai Bike Ride group.
Hau, a native of France, moved to Shanghai in 2008 before the onset of the shared bicycle revolution.
“When I arrived in Shanghai, there were more cars and scooters on the street than bicycles.”
The introduction of shared bikes in 2014 has ensured that most streets in Shanghai are colored bright yellow, orange, green and blue. Ofo, a Beijing-based station-free bike-sharing platform, said its mission has always been to promote sustainable transportation to make the last mile of commuting a green one.
With shared bicycles scattered across the sidewalk in Shanghai, the popularity of cycling seems to be growing for both commuting and exercising purposes. Now shared bicycles not only solve the “last mile” problem, but also the “extra mile” struggle by encouraging people to do a little more exercise every day.
Hau says he always noticed a high demand for cycling in Shanghai but never really as an activity that can connect people to exercise.
“I initially wanted to do some exercise after work and posted on WeChat to find people with similar needs. Many responded to the post, so the number of members has not stopped growing since.”
Hau’s biking group, which now has 350 members, meets around three times a week to ride a 10-kilometer route starting from Zhongshan Park.
Genavieve Coleman, an English teacher from the United States, says the cycling culture in Shanghai is a very layman area.
“Common people become cross-city cyclers,” she says.
Coleman, who has been living in Shanghai for over a year, says cycling is a relaxing physical activity that also gets her to places.
“You can see the city from a different perspective and explore new places,” says Calvin Lin, a customer service consultant from Taiwan and a member of the biking group.
David Lingerak, from the Netherlands, says he loves to cycle in Shanghai because he can feel and see the city that way. “I love to hear the wind in my ears when I ride through Shanghai.”
Lingerak says the culture of cycling in Shanghai is quite different from that in the “cycling capital of the world,” the Netherlands.
“I’m Dutch, so I could ride a bike before I could walk and I’ve basically cycled my entire life. Bikes go much slower here and the gears are different from the Dutch bikes, which is a good thing as the traffic here is much more crowded. People ride anywhere — me too — and the lower speed helps prevent accidents,” he explains.
Lingerak says in Holland people on bikes are really pushy, so even with the chaos in Shanghai he thinks it’s more friendly.
Compared with most cities in the US, Coleman says that Shanghai is a very cycling-friendly city. However, she adds that it’s not always safe to cycle here.
“The rules and spaces provided for cyclists are not always respected by everyone. Although the spaces and needs are there, the order and respect are often missing,” she notes.
Taiwan native Lin says the impatience of scooter riders also gets on his nerves every time there is a “sudden beep” from the back.
There are numerous cycling routes across Shanghai. Both Coleman and Lingerak recommend exploring the smaller streets in the downtown area for an easy ride. Lingerak says that the best time to ride is in the evening when the streets are a bit quieter and the air is a little cooler.
So next time you are on a shared bike, don’t hesitate to take a few extra turns on your way home — you might just find yourself enjoying it.