There are so many bicycles here. I mean, I knew that that lots and lots of people bike here in China, but seeing it is something else.
It’s amazing to see all the ways bikes are used.
There are tricycles with an open metal box in back; I’ve seen people pedaling with a propane tank rolling around, with shrink-wrapped cases of bottled water or Gatorade, even a stack of window panes.
At night you see couples biking home from dates, the girls perched side-saddle on the tiny rack behind the seat. During the day it’s more likely to be a kid balanced behind a parent.
With so many bikes around, people start personalizing theirs. My favorite are the ones with velvet seat covers and swaying fringe. Bike repair shops operate on the sidewalk, surrounded by tires and spare parts. On my walk yesterday I passed by at least three, each with a man crouched on the sidewalk working intently on a bike while its owner looked on.
It’s amazing, too, how fearless cyclists are. The streets are chaos. Traffic is thick, drivers are aggressive, and mopeds veer insanely. Left-hand turns are made by sheer force of will. U-turns make me fear for the lives of complete strangers. Car horns aren’t used to alert others to danger: they’re a tool for drivers to use in bludgeoning their way through the streets. Even from the eighth floor of my hotel, I hear a near-constant chorus of horns. (It’s an effort of sheer will not to let it get to me – too much.) I have a new policy in crossing big intersections on foot: I wait until a Chinese person starts to cross, and then I shadow them as they dodge careening minibuses and determined cyclists. Until the last second, you never know who will win each game of chicken.