Thinking about creating a project around cycling based in China, I looked into the background of cycling in China, to see if it is popular and what facilities the cities provide.
These two articles have been crucial in my understanding of bicycle culture in China as well as some of the issues that exist.
Turns out, China is the cycling capital of the world, once referred to as the ‘Kingdom of Bicycles’. There are seven million registered bicycle riders in Beijing alone and around half a billion bicycles in China, which is roughly one bicycle per household. In most places bicycles outnumber cars by 10 to 1. However, the number of people who use bicycles for transport needs has gone down, from 60% in 1995 to 20% in 2010 and car ownership has skyrocketed. This has led to sever air pollution in certain cities, Beijing being one. Therefore, many cities have introduced bike share programs to bring the bicycles back. Many of these have been a success however, for some reason Beijing’s program was struggling. One of the articles listed above explains the problem very well:
“A little over a year after the program’s launch, many of its bicycles sit idly and unused at the stations. In one year since its inception, Beijing’s bike share recorded approximately 1.7 million rentals which averages out to less than one rental a day per bike. That’s about one-fourth the amount of trips that each bike in Hangzhou sees per day (3.8). And in Wuhan, currently the largest bike share system in the world, its 90,000 bikes are rented at least twice a day with 180,000 trips made per day. “
“In a country that has the bicycle deeply embedded into its recent history and one that is currently seeing a resurgence of the bicycle, why aren’t Beijingers using bike share? Some suggest that because of a almost non-existent bike culture in Beijing, the local government had little incentive or push to plan a quality bike share system.”
“The bicycle mode share in Beijing declined from 62% in 1986 to 16% in 2010, while automobile growth is increasing about 15%-20% each year. Along with this modal shift, the perception of bicycles has also shifted, exacerbating the issue. The bicycle was once the social status symbol of China. Now, it has been replaced by the car as the new status symbol because owning a car represents success and an upgrade to the middle-class. People in Beijing generally perceive the bicycle as outdated, and refer it as the main mode of transport for the poor. In an article published in Time, a Chinese woman even stated that she would “…rather cry in a BMW car than laugh on the backseat of a bicycle.””
“According to some, Beijing’s current bike sharing system was poorly designed and implemented.”
“Other factors such as the development of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure have also led to the resurgence of the bicycle in Hangzhou. Meanwhile, Beijing is playing catch-up as it works on its implementation of designated bike lanes in historic centers, arteries, and central business districts by 2015. And, with Beijing’s strong negative sentiment surrounding bicycling, it is unclear whether or not new infrastructure coupled with the growth of the bike share system will be enough to increase the system’s use.”
I think that this could be a very interesting problem to keep in mind when we are designing our idea. Could there be a way that we combine the problems with the bike share program with the background of Junkmen in China in order to create an exciting experience to not only celebrate what Junkmen did but to bring back an element of the bicycle culture in Beijing, encouraging more people to use the public bicycles? I think this could be such an exciting and beneficial project.