I currently live in Shanghai. Some time ago orange bikes started popping up on the streets here. They are called ‘Mobike’ and are really a great idea as you can download an app and give a deposit then pick up any Mobike in the city and ride it for a low rate, I think 1yuan for half an hour- about 10p…This was great, but recently other companies have produced blue bikes, yellow bikes and even green e-bikes. Since the arrival of these companies, each one has been depositing more and more bikes in caches around the city to swamp out the rival companies. Now it is almost comical when there are hundreds of these of different colours all in one place and pedestrians are forced to walk on the road..as seen in the picture above..a sight I was greeted with near my workplace.
My first time in China, I lived in Guangdong, In a small city called Zhongshan. That was ten years ago now, but I still remember the things that surprised me, things that were done differently. I used to travel out to the outskirts of the city in the evening to teach in factories in dusty, simple, industrial areas. One evening, the car was going through a residential area on the outskirts of town and the headlights of the car illuminated a bicycle travelling slowly in front of us through the narrow, gridlocked streets. Behind the young man pedalling the bike was a young boy of about ten standing on what was a luggage rack on the back of the bicycle, his hands on hips, headway above the traffic as his older brother or friend bobbed side to side in the traffic. Fearless, standing like a circus act.
Another time, I remember a bike being pedalled with their friend as a passenger facing backwards, holding their own (possibly broken) bike, sideways, pulled in to their chest, widening this bike to take up nearly a lane of traffic.Bicycles in China are also used to transport things. I have seen sofas being moved, slowly, the middle or one end resting on the bike.
Anyone who has been to East or South East Asia will have seen the way motorcycles are used to transport a whole family sometimes and China is no different. Outside of the bigger cities, you can see three, four or more people crammed onto the seat of usually a small capacity bike, flying along.. sometimes Mum dad and baby, but often groups of young friends squashed together with the rearmost passenger almost dangling off the very back.
In Zhongshan, I always remember being intrigued seeing motorcycles used to transport sheets of glass. The pillion holding the pane of glass to the side as the bike bounced over bumps in the road.
This all came back to me recently when I saw this man pedalling (literally) his wares from the back of a bicycle, rows of fish tanks on the back full of live pet fish. China…can be endlessly different and amusing on a good day.