Axing of bus deal puts workers back on their bikes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 August, 2004, 12:00am

Zhu Yuyun , a steelworker in Guangzhou, has recently bought a bicycle to ride to work. The trip, which includes crossing the Haizhu Bridge, takes almost an hour.

But she did not buy a bicycle out of a sense of nostalgia for the days before China's economic boom filled the country's streets with cars. Nor was it for exercise.

Instead, Ms Zhu did it out of financial necessity after the city abolished its 67-year-old monthly bus-ticket concessions.

'I have to spend about 120 yuan on buses every month, three times more than the monthly commuter ticket,' she said. 'I only earn 789 yuan a month. How can I afford it?'

Bicycle sales in Guangzhou have risen more than 12 per cent since May, when the commuter ticket was axed, said Liu Nanqiang , general manager of Guangzhou Five Rams Bicycle Import and Export Group.

The state-run Guangzhou First Bus Company cancelled the monthly commuter ticket to increase income.

The company said the 45 yuan monthly ticket, which allowed holders unlimited rides on the company's 52 routes, was not fair.

Now more than 167,000 bus commuters have to decide whether to pay one yuan for every trip or find another mode of transport.

For those wanting to save money, a bicycle appears to be the best choice.

The Information Times reported that more than 400 bikes crossed Haizhu Bridge every 30 minutes in rush hour, a clear increase from earlier this year.

A sociology professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, Liu Linping , said the resurgence in bicycles' popularity showed Guangzhou's bus fares were beyond common people.

Residents now had to pay double or more what they were spending before the monthly tickets were cancelled, he said.

Professor Liu said the city should hold public hearings to gauge opinions on more appropriate bus fares.

'Guangzhou's public transport capacity is too low but transport fees are too high. In fact, most residents can't afford them,' he said.

Ms Zhu warned it was quite dangerous to ride bicycles in rush hour due to the growing number of vehicles on the roads.

'The road is for cars and the city is for the rich,' she said.