Monday, January 29, 2007

Resistance Is Necessary

Resisting Car Culture In China

More Chinese are abandoning their bicycles -- not because they now own cars but because the dramatic increase in automobile use is making city streets too dangerous for cycling. But cyclists are fighting back.
"In the 1970s, private cars were almost non-existent in China, but over the past decade vehicle ownership has skyrocketed. Last year, the country became the world's second-biggest car market, behind the United States. Sales of new vehicles in China (including cars, trucks and buses) soared 25 per cent last year to reach 7.2 million. The total number of motor vehicles in China is projected to reach 130 million within the next 15 years. In Beijing alone, there are 1,000 new cars on the streets every day. As a result, bicycles are increasingly being squeezed to the margins. The streets are choked with traffic and automobile fumes. New roads are sometimes built without any bike lanes. Hundreds of bicyclists are killed in collisions with cars every year. Pedal power has become so life-threatening that many Chinese have abandoned their bicycles. All of this is provoking a backlash across China. A movement is emerging to promote the rights of bicyclists. Environmentalists are calling for bike lanes to be restored and expanded. Newspapers are crusading on behalf of bicyclists, investigating the scandal of roads without bike lanes."
Source: The Globe and Mail, Jan 20. (Thanks to Matt in Detroit for the tip)

6 comments:

allderblob said...

Hey Martin the article makes reference to a story you put up on BLD about some white woman in Beijing standing up to cars in the bikelane.

I sent a letter to the globe about their story--not published, to my knowledge:

To the Editor:

Geoffrey York writes: "When a female bicyclist was photographed in a confrontation with a motorist who had intruded into a bike lane in Beijing, she became an instant celebrity. The media hailed her as a hero, and the motorist was forced to apologize." All this is true, but York fails to mention the "instant celebrity" was a white woman. The source is here: http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20061027_1.htm.

The story is complicated by the fact that the lane in question was said by police to be a "shared lane," in the Beijing style: a collector lane off one of the city's wide boulevards, open to both motorized and human-powered vehicles.

Having recently returned from a Beijing visit, I saw first-hand the dangerous mix of cars, bikes and motorbikes in these collector-lanes. Cars often push into these lanes to make an end-run around the clogged central lanes of the boulevards.

It is likely that most of the car owners and taxi drivers who are clogging the streets of Beijing today are relative new-comers to automobile ownership; what is remarkable is that despite this fact they have no empathy or respect for the cyclists and pedestrians with whom they share the streets.

Is there a lesson here for Canadian cities? Or is it the other way around? While in China now anyone who has the money travels by car or taxi, leaving only the poor to get around by human power, in Canada a significant percentage of urban cyclists are middle-class, well-educated tax-payers who've chosen to ride a bike.

In Toronto, councillors made a move to encourage more motorbike use by eliminating their on-street parking fees. It's quite common now to see motorbikes parked on sidewalks and even tethered to the city's bicycle ringposts.

How long until these well-meaning but deluded councillors move to permit motorbikes the use of dedicated bicycle lanes?

Urban cyclists and pedestrians worldwide need to work together to fight the further erosion of our safe places. We need to work to expand the non-motorized areas of cities. It is significant that China is moving in the other direction.

It's not China that has a lesson for Canada, but the other way around. Just as with the western cyclist who stood up to the car in the Beijing bikelane, we in the western cities need to show China how to be respectful of those among us who choose an environmentally sustainable, healthy and economical mode of transport: the bicycle.

Jacob Allderdice

Anonymous said...

Ewwww.... great pic martino. I want to see that 3x4 feet sized.

Hamish said...

If China starts going to be as "carrupt" as we are here, it's very bad news for our global climate etc. But we need to lead by example: we have to forsake our carazy ways for the bike and transit before our finger-pointing really begins. And meanwhile, we need to start counting and charging for all those carbon emissions for all the "goods" we take in from everywhere in the world.

Da' Square Wheelman, said...

Here are the pictures of Beijing Bicycle Confrontation I posted several months back.

Also, it should be noted that while bike traffic is down in China (as well as India), manufacturing is most definitely not. Tragic how globalization promotes cheap transportation alternatives in the developed world while hindering them precisely where they are needed.

dsw

Anonymous said...

The average chinese person in china couldn't care less about their environment. I find that China is a materialistic society where eveyone wants a piece of bling. Now bicycles are seen as eyesore and it is only for the poor. The motorist have abused the bike lanes many years ago especially in southern major cities. building more bike lanes means more for motorist to take over. The chinese gov't lost face because it takes a "crazy foreign lady" to point out its neglected issues.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese make great scapegoats don't they?