A push for bicycles

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 January, 2011, 12:00am

After tightening vehicle ownership regulations to ease the capital's serious traffic and pollution problems, authorities are having another go at bringing more bicycles back to the streets. The city is planning to set up bike rental services on a trial basis along major subway lines.

Located every 500 metres, the outlets will be mainly in or around the business areas, subway stations and popular public venues, Chen Yanling , a director of the Beijing Municipal Transport Commission, told the Economic Observer.

Beijing first tried bicycle rentals in 2006. Business boomed during the 2008 Olympics but fell afterwards.

The transport commission says only 20 per cent of all Beijing commuters rode bicycles last year. Officials expect to raise the figure to 23 per cent and have 50,000 bicycles for rent by 2015.

Beijing is trying to learn from Hangzhou , the capital of Zhejiang province, which has the most successful bike rental service. It has 2,000 lending outlets with 50,000 bikes and has 250,000 customers a day.

But Beijing has a colder climate, and few cyclists brave the chill. Traffic expert Xu Kangming , a consultant to the Hangzhou project, said insufficient investment from the government was a key to the failure of 'low-carbon travel' in the capital.

But getting residents to take part may be the biggest obstacle. Yang Xu , 24, who works in the central business district, said she would not ride a bicycle - her own or a rental.

'It's hard to be on the streets when they're ruled by cars. Do you think it's healthy to ride in such smoggy air?'