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Bicycles in China

Bicycles in China

China impresses many as the kingdom of bicycles. China had 500 million bicycles by 1987. One bicycle for every two people of its population. Bicycles in China are ingrained in every day life and are an important means of transportation and are visible everywhere, which is quite different from that bike-riding is just one way of physical exercise or a sport.

Though multi-geared "mountain" bikes are starting to become more and more popular, most Chinese still ride the venerable all-purpose 1-speed commuting bike. The basic model is the one with fenders, chain guard, kickstand, rod brakes, bike bell, rear package carrier, and usually a front handlebar basket.

None come equipped with lights of any kind for nighttime riding. It was quite common to see, in 1980's, an entire 3-person family commuting around on a single bike, usually with the father pedaling, the kid perched on an improvised seat squeezed in behind the handlebars, and the wife sitting side-saddle on the rear rack. However, this scene tends to vanish with the improvement of living standard -- one family is rick enough to afford two or more bikes.

Bikes are found in almost every village, town or city, except Chongqing which is built on several such steep mountains that it is a painful thing to ride bikes in the street. Bikes are so essential in people's life that it is so weird if you don't know how to ride a bike. Roads are swarmed with hundreds and thousands of bikes in rush hours of going on and off work. People have to be very skillful of riding bikes in order that he or she can struggle to move forward in such a crowd. In some remote regions where only bikes are able to enter, people are very good at the technique of carrying as much goods as possible when they go downtown faraway, for example, you may amazingly find that one bike carries nearly ten piggies. Bike-riding program in Chinese acrobatics also indicates this.

Bicycles give feelings of freedom and of returning to nature. Cyclists can visit ancient sites, and stop and explore things along the way. Cycling does not harm the natural environment and doesn't cause pollution. It is also a convenient way of traveling that is becoming more and more popular. Take Yangshuo of Guilin for instance. Cycling the countryside to enjoy the breathtaking scenery beside the road or along the river is an activity that can't be missed. In Guilin there are not only bicycles available but tandem bicycles and even bicycles for three.


 
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