The Bike Lanes of Beijing

Evan Osnos’ Letter from China looks at Beijing’s bike lanes:

First, a taxonomy. Beijing has at least three definable species of bike lane. The most luxurious, which we’ll call Business Class, is a ribbon of designated asphalt set off from the car world by a sidewalk and often a tree or two:

The second variety, Economy Class, shares the roadway with cars and buses, but takes up the prized area beside the curb, monopolizing the space for parking that has John concerned.

The third species, which we’ll call Economy Plus, has elements of both: a line of parked cars, a lane for bikes, and at least two lanes for autos. Pros and cons: Everybody gets their lane, but that has required widening some of Beijing’s roads to at least seven lanes, and very often twice that, producing not so much roads as “exalting deserts of tarmac,” as a visiting urban planner once put it. Along the way, the buildings on either side get leveled (with or without a fight) and neighborhoods are altered. None of this is the fault of the bike lanes—the roads are being widened, without question, for cars—but none of the options are without tradeoffs.

Osnos’ post was prompted by another at The New Yorker, in which John Cassidy controversially bemoaned the proliferation of bike lanes in New York:

Today, of course, bicycling is almost universally regarded as a serious, eco-friendly mode of transport, and cyclists want it easy. From San Francisco to London, local governments are introducing bike lanes, bike parks, bike-rental schemes, and other policies designed to encourage two-wheel motion. Generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with this movement: indeed, I support it. But the way it has been implemented, particularly in New York, irks me to no end. I view the Bloomberg bike-lane policy as a classic case of regulatory capture by a small faddist minority intent on foisting its bipedalist views on a disinterested or actively reluctant populace.

The bitter rant of an angry motorist? Perhaps.

Back in China, from CRIEnglish:

Pu Cunxin, a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and his bicycle has become the focus of reporters covering the event in Beijing, China News Service reported.

Pu Cunxin, a famous actor in China and a household name as China’s first ambassador of an anti-AIDS campaign, rode his bike to Beijing International Hotel for registration to the annual session of the CPPCC National Committee on Wednesday.

Last year, he did the same thing to promote green transportation and became the focus of media attention.

Former US ambassador and probable presidential contender Jon Huntsman was also frequently spotted cycling to work and to meetings at the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The proportion of Beijingers cycling to work fell from 80% in 1990 to 20% last year, however, prompting official efforts to restore its role in the city’s transport system.

March 11, 2011 4:05 PM
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Categories: Society