With pollution and traffic problems at all-time highs in Chinese cities, some are taking up cycling as a sustainable alternative. The burgeoning environmental movement, convenient urban transportation system, and the costs of car ownership have convinced some out of their cars and onto public transportation and bikes.
In the past, bicycle infrastructure was purposely neglected by Shanghai city officials in hopes that residents would ditch their bikes and opt for public transportation. Instead, the rising standards of living, purchasing power and increasing urbanization led to more and more cars on the roads. With cars and buses given priority, little was done to accommodate bikes. Many new roads and highways built during this time did not have bike lanes or adequate safety features despite the number of bikes still on the road.
Recently, an increasing re-prioritization on sustainability, active transportation, and environmental awareness by Chinese cities has placed bicycles higher on the priority list. In Shanghai, some roads now have bike lanes and the city has even implemented free or low cost bike-sharing programs for residents.
The increasing suburbanization of Shanghai has also led to many residents using cars to travel the long distance from their homes on the outskirts to their work in the downtown core. In the inner city area, where travel distances are generally shorter, more people opt to use non-motorized vehicles for convenience and comfort. Despite the increased use of bicycles in the city, Shanghai still faces many barriers to facilitating safe and convenient bike travel. Adverse urban policies and a lack of infrastructure continue to limit the scope of cycling in the city.
Credits: Photographs by Sophie Plottel. Data linked to sources.