Those who regularly ride the subway in China’s large cities will finally gain a little more breathing room in the coming weeks, as warmer weather means that bikes and bikers are making a seasonal comeback.
Biking in China can be quite liberating: you aren’t a slave to the slow-moving pace of congested traffic; you have more room and comfort on the road; and you can wind your way through narrow alleyways if necessary.
That being said, biking here almost necessitates having eyes in the back of your head, given the chaotic crush of pedestrians intermingled with cars, buses, and motorbikes on the road.
So, getting new eyes aside, what can you do to keep yourself safe, sane, and savvy on China’s larger urban roads? WildChina has a few tips:
1) Believe in the power of the people: In the throngs of vehicles and people that intermingle in China’s busy city streets, groups of people have the ability to make traffic stop for them – or at the very least, influence it a little. If 20 people bike across the street at one time, chances are that you will be safe among them.
2) Look left, look right, and look left again: We don’t mean to suggest that you should crane your neck to check out your surroundings, but constantly check your area with a quick glance or two. By briefly surveying your neighborhood, road, fellow riders and drivers, you’ll get a better sense of possible hazards. In addition, you’ll start to get a feel for Chinese urban traffic patterns: morning versus night traffic, larger roads versus smaller streets (possibly without bike paths), etc.
3) Use your bell strategically: If you anticipate being in a transportation bind ahead, by all means ring your bike bell to signal to fellow bikers. However, know that you’ll lose influence if you’re ringing it your entire ride to work. In China, routes will always be fairly crowded – pick your battles.
As always, wear a helmet – even if the Chinese do not – and obey all traffic rules and regulations.
Have questions about urban biking in China? Email Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.