Biking in Shanghai

Exact Portrayal

From Google

Unearth all of the repressed memories of learning how to drive a car – the speeding up and the slowing down, the parental yelling and writhing in the periphery, and the nerve-racking first time experience of getting on the interstate – and you will understand all emotions that accompany riding a bike in Shanghai. Although many may speak disparagingly of riding in this city, I’ve concluded that it’s liberating, beneficial and by emerging yourself on the streets with one, you start to gain a holistic impression of what it means to be Chinese. I am still amazed by the plethora of bikes that ”orderly overcrowd” the sidewalks and streets in the city and I am still seeking (to understand) its place in Chinese culture. On the surface, I’ve concluded that bicycling in Shanghai (more, the greater China area) is more than a commodity, it’s a commonality; its more than an characteristic, it’s the quintessence of China. Having one is an absolute must in the city, but caveat riding one in this city really gives life to the new age adage “Y.O.L.O. in Shanghai!”

One would think that at the frequency that Chinese people fancy bikes, they would have created the bicycle (or at least have promoted it as a patriotic symbol). However, that doesn’t seem to be the case, just an understood reality that Chinese people love bikes (or perhaps appreciate them more). The culture implication of the “bike” is different in China than in the U.S. Here, it’s a means of cheap, inexpensive transportation. This idea of using a bike to get from point A to point B is engrained in this culture, so much that it has presented itself in our latest Chinese chapter.

Tonghe Bikes

In this chapter, Wan Xiao Yun attempts to convince her mom that she needs to buy a car, but her mother was nonetheless supportive. She continues, “Not only do you get to exercise, but you get to save money, too! Your father his whole life did this, why can’t you follow him?” (NPCR, 166). Although the market on automobiles is on the rise, the simple truth is that everyone rides bicycles here – mom, dad, sister, brother, grandma and grandpa, aunt, uncles and the entire extended family. It is not an odd occurrence to see students sharing bikes to class and a professional businessman (or woman) in a suit pass within 20 seconds of each other.

Despite the fact that the majority of our Davidson in Shanghai group has not adopted this Chinese biking tradition, I have and I adore my sleek black and metallic grey bicycle. I admit that traveling in Shanghai has been difficult to adjust to – safe and secure walking is undoubtedly an extreme challenge – but adding extra velocity (without protective equipment) to the equation makes it that much more difficult. I’ve had to learn two main tenets for the road: 1) I share the same road, and 2) I am not the same vehicle. I’ve become more bold and abrasive with general traffic, but I still let major vehicles (i.e. the 713 bus) whiz past me. Still, I am glad that I bought one and can travel with the rest of the natives, but maybe not like the natives. I feel that they are too uptight in the way that they ride the bike – two hands, slow paces and all in straight lines. I ride with no hands, fast paces and I constantly receive scrutiny from my peers for riding in winding shapes. I think… “Y.O.L.O. in Shanghai!” and that’s how I’m living.

Yikes.. Y.O.L.O.?