Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

China: The Bicycle Kingdom

Bicycles in Shanghai
Photo Credit: Matt
It's Bike Week in our city this coming week, which had me thinking about bicycles in China. Bicycles, or Zi Xing Che (meaning ''self driven transport''), are one of the main methods of transportation in China. In fact the estimate is that there is one bicycle for every two people. 

Photo Credit: Steve Minor
Bicycles are used for everyday life, for going to and from work, and for delivery of goods (in some remarkable ways!). They are used by the young and the old, in all manner of weather. There are wide bicycle lanes, and areas devoted to bicycle parking. 

Delivery Bicycle in Beijing
Photo Credit: Mitch Altman
There is no need for a week of events to promote cycling as bicycles are visible everywhere and a norm. However their popularity has been declining as incomes have been increasing and cars have been seen as a symbol of wealth.

Bicycle Parking Lot
Photo Credit: Joel Abroad
Though introduced in the late 19th century, and becoming of regular use in the 1930s, the turning point for the bicycle industry in China came with the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The Party promoted the bicycle as the people's vehicle and featured it prominently in city planning. Benefits were given to those using bicycles as a regular means of travel, and by 1958 China was producing over a million bicycles a year.

Bicycles in winter
Photo Credit: Matthew Stinson
The bicycle's popularity was at its highest in the 60's and 70's, even often given as a wedding gift.  There has been a marked decline since the late 1980's, since for many with the financial means to afford a car, the bicycle has been seen as backward. But the bicycle is making a resurgence due to traffic congestion and air pollution.

Does your family use bicycles as a means of getting around, or for fun?

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