Cycling, a charming activity in China

It has been more than two weeks already since I and other country mates first tried cycling in mega Beijing, China, after realizing that other media fellows from different countries had been addicted to this sustainable mode of transport.

Passion for cycling tends to beat heavily in our hearts whenever we are free. It doesn’t matter whether it is in the morning or late afternoon. Whenever we are free we go cycling.

Our path to showing people how great our love for cycling is hasn’t been laid out easily. At first we had no idea how to rend a bike, and I even bought two monthly bike cards within two days. Now we can know which one of colourful bikes parked in rows in front of our condominium can be ridden and how many minutes we need to cycle to reach our destination.

If you visit China for study, work, doing business, holiday, or other reasons else and you never have time to cycle, you miss a chance to make your time here livable because cycling is popular among Chinese people. It gives you a convenient, affordable and environment friendly means of transport.

Along roads there tend to be people cycling to school, office, for leisure purposes, or exercise on both sides of the road which usually have rows of trees, the generous givers of shade and fresh air. Cycling in a public park with beautiful scenery and river can give you more enjoyable time.

Renting a bike takes simple steps. We can use mobile app to look for nearby bikes or just walk for a couple of minutes and you will see different kinds of bikes parked in rows, individually or in groups. After cycling is over, the bike can be parked anywhere. This makes access to bicycles an easy thing.

Bike sharing service is provided by either public sector or private companies. Most people prefer the service of private businesses as their access tends to be more convenient. Bike sharing service providers have developed mobile apps that can be used to rent a bike. The rental is affordable, mostly at 1.5 yuan for one hour (1 yuan = 1,234 kip). In some regions like Beijing the price is 0.5-1 yuan for every 15 minutes of biking. Some bike sharing companies provide via Alipay payment platform more affordable options like 4.9 yuan for five days of cycling, 5-8.1 yuan for seven days, 16.8 yuan for one month, or 48.6 yuan for three months without capping a particular time of cycling spent on a single day. So what you need to have everything done for your cycling is just a smart phone with one of digital accounts such as Alipay or WeChat Pay.

Each bicycle has QR codes, mostly located in the middle of handlebar and at the back, right under the saddle. These codes are for scanning to unlock the bike. Charge begins when the bike is unlocked and ends when locked.

After having fallen in love in cycling for some time, Bountieng Chanthavong, Deputy Editor of News and Feature Division, Lao National Radio revealed, “Cycling in Beijing is very comfortable, but what we need to pay attention to is traffic rules because China has very strict rules. Whenever we need to cross the road we must use zebra crossings and respect traffic lights. Cycling is also good for your health as it is another form of exercise, and you can also enjoy seeing beautiful scenery and beautiful things along road sides.”

“I think the bike sharing scheme in China is a great idea and it’s been executed brilliantly in reality. It’s super convenient and necessary for users. I believe this is one of the most important reasons why Beijing has no air pollution now,” said Quoc Chen Anh, a Vietnamese journalist who used to spend years in China for his undergraduate degree in mandarin.

“At first, when I came to Beijing, I was worried I can’t cycle because of pollution and traffic. But, it turns out there’s no pollution and it’s safe, convenient and comfortable to cycle in Beijing because they have a special line for bicycles and they have a bike-sharing service using Alipay platform. All we need to do is activate bike service in Alipay and pay it from our Alipay balance and the price is cheap,” said Luki Aulia, a senior journalist of Kompas Daily Newspaper, Indonesia.

Cycling has been intertwined with the lifestyle of Chinese people for a long time. China has around 500 million bicycles. Yet the number is still lower than 670 million recorded in the 1970s.

Encouraging people to use bicycles is another achievement in China’s efforts in improving environment. The development of basic infrastructure – bicycle lanes, and mobile applications has resulted in a rapid growth of bike sharing businesses over the past five years.

Besides to China, the bike sharing model has been expanded to foreign countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, England and the United States. However, bike sharing service in the two ASEAN countries hasn’t been successful like that in China and this is mostly attributed to limited infrastructure, strict government policies and fierce competition in the host countries.

Many people may recall watching a news video on television in the 1990s showing Chinese people holding their bike handlebars at an intersection while waiting for a green light. The video reflected economic difficulty China was struggling to address. China then was called Kingdom of Bicycles. Today, cycling represents the civilization and wellbeing of Chinese people.

As for the Lao PDR, especially Vientiane, it would be great if bicycle use is promoted with concrete measures as our transport sector mainly depends on imported fossil fuel. Though we can produce electricity, vehicles powered by this kind of clean energy remain expensive.

We need to attach greater attention to addressing constraints in order to promote the use of bicycles including basic infrastructure, roads in particular, and security facilities as well as policies conducive to promoting bicycle use. If cooperation is extended from all of us for the promotion, a success will be within our reach.

Source: Lao News Agency

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