China has long been recognized as a nation of bicyclists, but as its economy booms and the government paves the world’s largest interstate-highway system, pedaling two-wheelers are being pushed aside to make room for cars. As Bill Donahue reports for Sierra, the Chinese have been reaping the benefits of a burgeoning economy: bigger homes, meatier diets, and the chance to own cars. With the country poised to soon overtake the United States as the world’s largest automotive market, cars and highways are being touted as a means of fostering a middle class, allowing corporations to expand beyond major metropolitan areas. Such developments mean the bicycle, once a favored mean of transportation, is on its way to becoming an item of leisure rather than necessity.
The decline of bikes has a lot to do with the reputation of cars. In “Greening the Dragon,” a special report in Green Futures, a magazine put out by the UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Jonathon Porritt writes that “the car has become a far more fitting symbol of economic and political success than the lowly bike.” While there are still only about eight cars for every 1,000 Chinese citizens, urban areas like Beijing squeeze in 1,000 new automobiles a day. [Full Text]
Porritt returns the bicycle issue in a long piece recently posted on China Dialogue that proclaims China the most important sustainable development story in the world.