Across Continents

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Nine million bicycles

“There are nine million bicycles in Beijing
That’s a fact
It’s a thing we can’t deny”

with thanks to Katie Melua, Georgian born singer / songwriter

Bicycles - web

Nation of cyclists. Certainly quite a few, but bicycles no longer the dominant form of transport I’d imagined. Still widely used in rural districts, for many the only affordable means of getting around. But in the towns and cities, you’re much more likely to be run over by an electric bicycle or scooter.

There is the justifiable perception that the bicycle is the poor man’s transport. Ironic then that just as their urban use begins to wane in China, it rises in Western nations as an ecologically sound alternative to more polluting means of getting about.

Bicycles- plastic - web

For the most part, bicycles here are strictly functional. A smattering of mountain bikes. Smart road machines with drop handlebars a rarity. A few touring cycles. Quality is at the lower end of what you’d find in the West. But not a criticism. More a testament to good design. No need for more expensive components if you’re wandering no more than just a few miles.

And wander they do. Well, more ambling. Liable to drift out into your path without warning. Frustrating when you’ve quite a distance to cover. As is the oft quoted assertion you can source anything for a bicycle in China. Travel light they say. Dare say this might be true in the metropolises like Shanghai or Beijing. But not elsewhere. A temporary fix maybe. A bodge.



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