Bike lanes in China

We get pretty wrapped up here in Ottawa about the life and death of the universe, also known as the Laurier separated bike lanes (SBL).

Really, it’s worthwhile sometimes to go back and look at other cities, a bit further away, and see what other cultures are up to. Of course, our biggest models have been NYC and The Netherlands/Denmark, with guest appearances from Portland and few other places.

A reader has returned from China, and sent me these pic on SBL’s there. [Many thanks to R for the pictures and some descriptions in the accompanying email]. They surprised me a bit, since I have fallen for the all-too-common main stream media story line about rapid urbanization, the switch to freeways and private cars, and the incredibly rapid development of metro’s in many cities. Still, automobiles have the same urban problems in China as we have discovered, but at their rapid pace of development it has taken just a decade or so to come to regret urban automobile pollution, albeit probably unstoppably popular (just like here). People do like their cars. 

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First, from Shanghai here are some SBL’s on some busy residential area streets. Rather than “bicycle freeways” or “cycling superhighways” these are intended for local transport to work, social clubs, neighbours, shopping, and all those utilitarian trips. As such some sections have ready access to adjacent business and residential addresses. They are also used to cycle to the underground metro stops. As the pictures show, China is trying several models of SBL.

As always, you can double click on a picture to enlarge it to see more detail.

Separated bike lane reclaimed from a traffic lane. I wonder if the fence separating the ped sidewalk from the asphalt predates the SBL? Definitely favours thru traffic rather than local. The rows of trees are nice; I hope Ottawa will try these treed allees sometime soon: both Carling and Albert (thru the Flats) are due for reconstruction and offer a good opportunity to try something different.
This separated bike lane has been reclaimed from a busy road by a (possibly temporary) fence. Note the invading car on the sidewalk. I wonder what the residents of the Laurier condos would think of replacing the 7″ curbs with 36″ fences?? Or office workers in the Kent to Elgin zone??
This bike lane is paved exactly the same as the sidewalk, and is at the same level. The cyclist and pedestrian realms are separated by a sturdy fence. A second fence further discourages peds from trying to cross the road, as does the centre boulevard hedge.The sparseness to gaps in the cyclist fence means the cycling lane is best for longer distance trips rather than short utility trips to adjacent shops (the red steel facade reminds me of Staples)
The cyclists on the lane have easy stopping access to adjacent buildings; the motor vehicle lanes appear to be no stopping, no parking, through-traffic priority roads. The dense hedge make a pleasant functional separation and also prevents peds from entering onto the motor vehicle lanes.
This Shanghai SBL is like a parallel road. Note the pedestrian experience from the piazza to the right over the bidirectional path to bus stops on the left island involves stepping down into the lane, rather like crossing a street. This is a complete separation of pedestrian, cyclist, and motor vehicles.
No matter where you are in the world, some problems remain the same, note the pedestrians on the Shanghai bike lane; notice the SBL is same level as the sidewalk, both are higher than the road. There are TWO rows of trees. The bike path looks much smoother than the pavers on the sidewalk which might be why the peds are on the path.

While there is some greenery, make no mistake the Shanghai air is totally foul, and cyclists are to some degree engaged in slow-motion suicide by poisoning. Many cyclists in Ottawa would no doubt love to try some of these layouts (other than the dedicated vehicular cyclists who yearn to play with the big trucks and buses, provided they are speeding). What would Albert Street going through the Flats be like if it had a generous separated bike lane with trees at 16′ centres on both sides? And the environment for motorists and pedestrians would be way better than it is now, too.

Moving over now, to Zhengzhou, aka Hangzhou, here are two shots of their bike rental system in operation.

Red, just like Bixibikes. But these are ordinary bikes, not heavy-duty semi-indestructable bixis. Is it better to have an expensive system designed by functionaires to cover all eventualities or a quick and dirty system that gets up and running cheaply? And why is Ottawa so different from other cities that have already “proven” that bike rental works, that we have to have an “experiment”? Are we going to experiment with freeways and busy roads next? There are a half dozen bike rental models out there; choose one and install it. Get going faster.
City of Zhengzhou (Hangzhou) bike rental station. Note the cheap (disposable, easily replaced) plastic bike baskets, on rather ordinary bikes, with exterior brake cables. A few bikes have tike seats, no seatbelts. These are not $8,000 per bike Bixi stations. Rather, it is much more like Rite Bike in Hintonburg & Westboro. Sometimes cheap and disposable may be the way to go.

One thought on “Bike lanes in China

  1. I have a bit of a different take on biking in China. It is lawless. The nice separated boulevards shown in these photos is different than my experience last month in Beijing: they were clogged with parked cars, there’s motor bikes everywhere and the intersections are chaotic and wild. The biggest one has right of way.

    I tried to write some of this up on my blog, but will never be as eloquent as Mr. Darwin. Have a read:

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