Riding a bicycle in Beijing

January 8, 2008

 Bike 1

When I’m asked, “what it like riding a bicycle in Beijing?”‘ my reply is, “WATCH OUT FOR THE BUSES!!”                         

With most roads in Beijing already squeezed for space by millions of cars, the thousands more added everyday, the bicycle lane is often used as a bus stop, especially around Tienanmen Square. Bus drivers have developed a blind spot where cyclists are concerned, particularly those riding down a dedicated cycle lane.

There are other perils too.


The weather.  In winter the cold slaps your face, in summer the sweat runs into your eyes but the freedom of cruising without a helmet (such things are more relaxed in China) reminds me of when I could do the same as a youngster back home in Australia – so much fun – and it’s not as if a cycle helmet is going to prevent anyone from becoming the hood mascot on a crosstown bus..

– The pollution.  Not so bad unless you are an air-breather but just about survivable if you cough vigorously about every 500 metres or so.

Bike 3

– The taxis. Wow, WATCH OUT for those guys, they really know how to cut you up. If they were the same size as buses, they would be the cyclist’s public enemy number one.


 Ohhhh, I nearly forgot;

– the electric bicycles. Silent but deadly. If you aren’t paying attention they can be on top of you before you know it, even after you’ve just looked over your shoulder.

 Bike 2

But hey, if you can survive all those things being a ‘LaoWei’ on a bicycle cruising along the main roads of Beijing on a bicycle can be extremely enjoyable. The flatness of Beijing coupled with miles of cycle lanes allows you to progress at a leisurely pace while taking in the sights. Fascinating………..if not a little scary.


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great photos and commentary1 just a correction, it should be ‘laowai’ not ‘leowei’. laowai is chinese for ‘foreigner’.

Posted by dezza | Report as abusive

Laowai, not leowai.

Posted by Yi Ge Waiguoren | Report as abusive

As always, great pics and highly informative. Thank you Mr. Gray.

Sure seems like life in China and the rest of the world is a hustle thoug you’re talking about bike riding, can’t help but think: “Isn’t that a task but fun all the same?” hmmm :-)


Posted by Diana Ngila | Report as abusive

That is ok.

Posted by lily | Report as abusive

Last week in Rome I heard a taxi driver insulting flat a cyclist screaming at him “what on earth do you think you are doing cycling in the middle of the city?”!!!

Posted by Niki | Report as abusive

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