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Shanghai Cycle Chic 10

Shanghai Cycle Chic

All photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

During my recent trip to China I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Shanghai. Before I went to China, I promised Mikael Colville-Andersen that I would snap some photos of “Cycle Chic” action while biking around Shanghai.

Mikael popularized the term “Cycle Chic” in his blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic which he started 3 years ago. The Cycle Chic movement has now spread across the globe – but unfortunately nobody has started a “Shanghai Cycle Chic” blog at the time of this writing (The Urban Country is blocked within China, so the people of Shanghai won’t be able to view this post)

Cycle Chic means different things for different people. To me, it’s riding your bike in your regular clothes – be it your work clothes, your clubbing clothes, or your Sunday attire – whatever it is that you happen to be wearing.

It’s about riding with style and without the requisite of any pretentious clothing or gear.

As evidenced in my recent article Utility Cycling in China, the bicycle is a tool in China that serves a useful purpose. It gets people from A to B fast. It’s convenient to park, it’s inexpensive and it’s healthy.

The following photos illustrate how regular people in their regular attire use bicycles for transportation in Shanghai:

Happiness is in the air:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Don’t look, but your shoe laces are untied!

Shanghai Cycle Chic

I didn’t put that smog there:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

They have cowboys in China too you know:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

White shoes, white bike:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

They have Dutch bikes in China too you know:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Cyclists, please dismount before crossing the road:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Searching for a sale:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Hey van, would you like to race?

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Fold it or lock it? Lock it…

Shanghai Cycle Chic

This bike was made for them’ heels:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Productive day:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

School pickup and grocery stop:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Peek-a-boo, I see you:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Matching purple bike:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Matching grey bike:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Waiting patiently:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

Staying cool:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

The sit-up cycle revolution:

Shanghai Cycle Chic

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

Stay tuned – more articles from my 3-week trip to China are on the way (even though I’m back in Toronto, there is more China to come)

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10 thoughts on “Shanghai Cycle Chic

  1. Anonymous May 26,2010 12:19 pm

    Great photos. Shanghai looks like a nice place to cycle. Very smooth roads and sweet bikes!

  2. James D. Schwartz May 26,2010 1:31 pm

    It is a great place to ride. You don’t have to worry too much about motorists due to the vast segregated cycle tracks.

    It’s far more pleasant than cycling here in Toronto.

    But we are working to fix that 🙂

  3. mega1e May 26,2010 4:42 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Eric Wan May 26,2010 4:43 pm

    Hi Jim,
    Your website looks absolutely awesome! I connected easily with all your articles and could see that we speak the same language lol 🙂
    I’m a commuter cyclist from Vancouver, and it’s really cool to see a Canadian website dedicated to cycling, sustainable growth and transportation.
    I think with Bike To Work Week coming up, I can see more and more people riding in everyday fashion.
    I’m originally from Wuhan, China, and moved 9 years ago. Looking at your photos, I’m slowly remembering the streets and caught myself surprised about the wide use of bicycles/tricycles/etc back in China. In recent years, most of the blogs I’ve read are focusing on European streets and how great they are for cycling, but it’s really Asian too. I’m hoping China will reverse the trend of prohibiting bicycles on main trendy streets starting in the late 90s and instead advertise cycling as a chic way of moving. (I’m sure the government is pro at propaganda, lol.)

    I don’t know if you have seen this video, but it’s really neat.
    Thanks for your cool photos.
    Eric Wan, Vancouver

  5. Crankyputz May 28,2010 12:13 am

    Beautiful Pics, glad to see your doing well!

  6. Michael May 29,2010 10:48 am

    James, great photos. It’s interesting that virtually everyone is a sit-up bike. Was that your choice or how it looked?

    Also not a single helmet. Do you know what the bike accident stats are?

    Anyway, well done. Mike

  7. James D. Schwartz May 29,2010 4:09 pm

    @Eric, thanks for coming by. I’m glad I could stir up some memories of China for you. It’s a really interesting country that is changing extremely fast.

    I think the reason China isn’t advertised as a bike haven is because historically the Chinese used bikes out of necessity, whereas in some European countries, they choose bikes even though they could afford automobiles.

    @Cranky, thanks for dropping in – I’ve been keeping an eye on you too 🙂

    @Mike, virtually all of the bikes I saw in China were the sit-up style bikes and some mountain bikes. Out of the thousands and thousands of bicycles I saw, I only saw about 5 “racing” cyclists in lycra and helmets. Almost nobody wears helmets – with the notable exception of the Pizza Hut and KFC delivery men (check those photos out in my article “Utility Cycling in China” and Mikael’s subsequent comment.

    I haven’t found any accident statistics in China – I doubt they are publicized in the same way they are in western countries. Accidents do happen there for sure, but it would be interesting to compare to North American cities indeed.

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