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Handicap Bike Parking 14

Shanghai bicycles

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

In Shanghai, there are a lot of bikes.. a LOT of bikes. With the high costs of car ownership, heavy pollution and traffic congestion, bikes are still a great alternative and you can quickly get around the city.

However, bikes are still generally considered to be the poor-man’s machine – and as the economy grows and people’s income increases, people are ditching their bikes for scooters, e-bikes and  automobiles.

Problem is, bikes and pedestrians are the bottom of the food chain. The only traffic enforcement you will see in Shanghai is to keep pedestrians out of the way of the automobiles. The single goal is to keep cars moving as quickly as possible.

In Shanghai, cars always have the right-of-way. Even if you have a “walk” signal – which indicates the “right-of-way” in North America – don’t be fooled into thinking you have the right-of-way.

You need to wait for a gap in cars – even though they are passing through a red light – and you need to run to avoid slowing down automobile traffic. The consequence of not doing so? At best, you will be brushed by a fast-moving automobile.

Fortunately, the traffic engineers have recognized this potential conflict between cyclists and automobiles, so they have provided many barrier-protected cycle tracks for bicycles and scooters, automobile-free streets as well as bike-free streets.

Shanghai bicycles

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country 

Shanghai bicycles

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

Shanghai bicycles

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country 

Shanghai also has designated bike parking lots everywhere. There are lines painted on the sidewalk to indicate where bikes should be parked.

Shanghai bicycles

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

The following photo is from 6AM on a Saturday morning – so the bike parking lot is expectedly empty:

Shanghai bicycles

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

But don’t kid yourself – these bike parking lots are completely full on weekdays and most are full on weekends too. This photo is from Friday afternoon:

Shanghai bicycles

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

But perhaps more interesting is the idea of having a “handicap” bike parking spot. I have never seen anything like this in North America, and I’m not sure if they have these in Europe.

But why not? Why shouldn’t a handicapped person ride a bike or a scooter? Unless they are in a wheelchair, many handicapped people I know could still ride a bike or a scooter. It’s nice to see the Shanghai government has provided a space for these people as well as everyone else to park their bikes.

Shanghai bicycles

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

What really fascinates me about the cycling in China is what the future holds. The economy in China is growing at a phenomenal rate. People’s wealth will continue to increase and the temptation to use automobiles will threaten these cities just like they did in Europe and North America when car became king in the decades following World War II.

Big cities in China will hit a threshold where they may start to see bikes as an effective and pragmatic tool rather than simply using them because that’s all they can afford. Or if the government isn’t careful, China could simply turn into the United States. They could rip out the existing cycle paths to make more room for automobiles and then the great Chinese cities will be nothing more than big American cities.

At least bikes in China have some historical significance as being a pragmatic tool for transporting people and goods.

But will this be enough to secure the future for bicycles in China?

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com.

Stay tuned for more articles from my visit to China to discuss bikes in China as well as a profile of the fascinating Shanghai Maglev high-speed train.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04170152877824201743 boyan

    Nice article Jim, I enjoyed reading it! Can’t wait to read the rest of the Chinese edition. You should think about renewing your vows every year in a different country to get more such ‘worldly’ posts.

  • http://ibiketo.ca/ Herb

    From what I’ve read China seems to be two-faced about it. They’ve been pushing the automobile as the symbol of modernity and people are keen to buy them. But the government also seems to be somewhat cautious so they’ve been investing in public bike programs and separated bike lanes. Things could go either, or both, ways.

    China would probably never get close to the auto-centric US simply because reality won’t let them – waaay too many people to put them all in cars; still most Chinese can’t afford cars; higher gas prices; and the global push for climate change agreements will make it hard for China to become auto-centric.

    Many Chinese cities went from being dominated by bikes to now being pushed into bike paths to make way for cars. The opposite is happening in North America where a bike space is slowly being carved out.

  • http://www.mywheelsareturning.com GLHJR

    Nice article…it brings back memories and makes me want to take a trip again.

    Historical footnote, China’s had a commitment to providing for disabled persons since Deng Xiaoping’s son, Deng Pufang, rose to a postion of power in the 1980′s. He himself was paralyzed by Red Guards in the cultural revolution. It’s far from perfect in China, but perhaps bicycle parking for disabled persons wouldn’t be as prevalent without him.

    The wikipedia page about him seems accurate to what I’ve learned before.

  • http://www.mywheelsareturning.com/ GLHJR

    Nice article…it brings back memories and makes me want to take a trip again.

    Historical footnote, China’s had a commitment to providing for disabled persons since Deng Xiaoping’s son, Deng Pufang, rose to a postion of power in the 1980′s. He himself was paralyzed by Red Guards in the cultural revolution. It’s far from perfect in China, but perhaps bicycle parking for disabled persons wouldn’t be as prevalent without him.

    The wikipedia page about him seems accurate to what I’ve learned before.

  • http://www.sandiegowalkintubs.com/ walk in tubs

    I have been to Shanghai.I went around on my “handicap” bike.It was my first time that I went to china.It was really nice to see “handicap” bike parking spots there.It makes it easy to park for handicap bikers.Thanks for sharing.

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