Standing atop a stool clamped to a bicycle rack in her long white wedding
gown, the giggling bride clasped her bouquet of white roses as the bridegroom
pedaled frantically down the street Huayuan Lu in Haidian district of Beijing to
the reception restaurant.
"This is the way we like it. I'll never regret
this," Fan Xiaoping reportedly told The Beijing News.
"It's really romantic
to have our wedding ceremony this way," Fan's new husband Jiang Yang, a doctoral
student at Peking University, told the capital city newspaper.
prominent picture story appeared to mark something more significant than a
wedding announcement: the beginnings of a mini-backlash against the motor
vehicle in the Beijing print and online media alongside events such as the
"Driving One Less Day a Month for a Blue Sky in Beijing" activity held on the
World Environment Day, June 5.
Recognizing that alongside Mexico City,
Beijing shares the distinction of being the world's most polluted capital, more
than 200,000 Beijing drivers pledged to use public transport, ride a bike or
walk to work on that day.
"It tells us that many people still reserve a
special place for the bicycle in their heart, regardless of there being so many
cars on the road," says a civil servant from the Shenzhen Intellectual Property
Bureau, who used to work in Beijing for ten years and go to work by bike every
"Still, I ride a bike to work almost every day, although I own a car
today. I only drive to the suburbs for the weekend," says Wang Yan.
mainland has about 500 million bicycles, according to the Beijing-based China
"It's time for us to rethink or rediscover what the
bicycle can bring us," says the association president Wang Fenghe.
rather than later, "government and people alike, including those car owners,
will realize how convenient, healthy and environmentally-friendly riding a
bicycle is," says Wang Yan.
It's often said that Americans
were brought up on the rear seats of cars.It's no exaggeration to say we Chinese
were brought up on the rear seats of bicycles," noticed Shen Zhong, an
accountant with a soap opera-making company in Beijing.
More importantly, the
52-year-old says, "bicycle has stored your bitter and sweet memories."
to the 1970s and early 80s, she recalled, "you'd have to obtain a coupon in
order to buy a bike, regardless of whether or not you had the money."
year, each work unit was provided with a few coupons. Normally, Shen says "one
out of 100 employees had a chance to get one coupon."
In the 1970s, a
worker's monthly salary could be about 30 yuan. Not until 1973 did Shen get her
"It was second hand, but it still cost me 100 yuan. My father
asked his friend to fix the rattling for me. For that, my mother even cooked
meat for him, which we could only eat at Chinese spring festival," says Shen,
with a big smile.
"My bicycle was like a family member. Life was difficult back then, so that
happiness seemed much more precious than that of today."
Thus the bicycle was
once an important status symbol. Shen remembers that when couples planned to
marry, one of the prerequisites was the "san zhuan yi xiang", or three rounds
and one sound in English --- a bicycle, a sewing machine, a wrist watch and a
It was a bicycle that brought Lu Yuling and her husband
"We lived far apart," says the retired high schoolteacher from
Chengdu in southwest China.
"It wasn't so easy to get together. He had a
bike.Therefore, almost every evening, he rode all the way across the city to see
"Instead of coming into my house, he used to sit on his bike and play a
Russian love song on his harmonica. That was our secret signal. On hearing his
harmonica, I'd dash out and then we'd ride out to the city park."
engagement gift? "Striking, and sexy. All my girl friends were so envious of me.
A fire-engine red bicycle of course.
"The bicycle was a key part of my
romance and my life," says the 55-year-old Lu.
"I really miss the days when
the city was like a huge neighborhood, where car drivers respected cyclists and
cyclists respected pedestrians." Return of the king
The figures from the
National Bureau of Statistics revealed that every hundred urban families in
China had 162.7 bicycles in 2000. That figure dropped to 120 in 2005.
sprawl appears to be one reason.
"People's freedom of movement expands after
relocation," says a Peking University student Cai Zixuan, 21, whose family
bought a car three years ago after moving to the West Fifth Ring Road from
"It's so inconvenient to go downtown without a car. Both my
parents and I have driving licenses so we can make full use of the car. None of
us ever rides a bike anymore."
It seems that for a certain kind of affluent
urban elite, the car has replaced the bicycle as the key expression of
affluence, while the bicycle has now become its poor cousin, even a symbol of
"This way of thinking hinders the development of the bicycle. One's
use of a bicycle shouldn't be taken as an indicator of one's financial status,"
says Wang Fenghe.
Wang feels the media overemphasizes the glamour of the
automobile at the expense of the bicycle's obvious advantages: keeping fit,
safety, easy to use, zero pollution, energy-saving, cost-effectiveness and
"These are the secrets of why the bicycle has lasted ever since its
invention," says Wang.
Yang Shan, 36, a salesman at Beijing Cuiwei Shopping
Mall, where he sells ten bikes a day on the average. The price varies from 200
to 3,000 yuan (US$25-375).
"Most people buy the cheapest ones, because
bicycles often get stolen," Yang says as he assembles the new arrivals.
Apart from the classic Chinese brands like Forever and Phoenix, electric
bicycles and portable folding bicycles are becoming increasingly
Although the bulk of his customers are high-school students, Yang
notes that more drivers are now buying bicycles.
Wang Xiaohui came to try out
an electric bicycle. "I want to buy an electric bicycle to deliver and pick up
my son from school."
It's less of a headache and quicker," says the
"It takes only ten minutes by electric bicycle, but a
half-hour drive in the Beijing traffic, "she says.
Other drivers are sticking
folding bicycles alongside the spare tire in their car trunk, Wang
"They say when there's a traffic jam, they just park the car and get on
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