Sunday, December 12, 2010

All About Bikes

The scene: Dozens of cyclists are jockeying for position as they bike down a crowded street. All of them are wearing helmets. Is this normal? No. At least not in China, where I have yet to see a local wearing a bike helmet.

In today's post, we will take a look at what constitutes "normal" bike behavior in Qufu. What gear, attitudes, and behaviors will make you look like a local?

1. Your Bike and Other Accouterments
Common types of bikes in Qufu include the following:
  • The electric bike (very popular -- makes up perhaps half of the two-wheeled vehicles on the road)
  • The standard single-speed
  • The small-wheeled portable
  • The rusted octogenarian
Almost every bike comes equipped with a basket in front and a seat in back. We are in the business of practicality here, not recreation. Once you have your bike, you're going to need some gear:
  • Bike lock: No one locks their bike to anything, and I have never seen a bike rack in town. You just put a lock through the back wheel so the bike can't be ridden and then park it wherever it's convenient.
  • Mitts: These bulky hand-warmers are permanently attached to most bike handles in the winter months. They also double as boxing gloves if you get into a fist fight.
  • Face Mask: Another winter accessory, this will keep your face warm and cute while warding off any flu or pollution particles.
  • (Boys only): A girlfriend for the back seat: Very romantic! But actually, anyone can share a bike.
  • Headlight or reflectors for night riding: Hahaha -- just kidding! Only electric bikes have lights, although we all ride at night.

2. The proper attitude
Wrong: High heeled boots should not be worn while biking.
Right: These heels look great with this skirt! Maybe I'll hop on my electric bike and go buy some more.

Wrong: It seems dangerous or inconvenient to bike there.
Right: Ding ding! Coming through!

Wrong: This stuff won't fit on my bike.
Right: I will fit these (large boxes, fresh vegetables, recyclables, small children) on my bike or die trying.

Wrong: It's raining; I better walk instead.
Right: Where's my umbrella and/or full-arm rain poncho?

I should not stare at random things or answer text messages while biking.
Right: Look! A foreigner!

3. What to do
OK. You have your bike, your gear, and the mindset of a local. Here are a few rules of the road:

1. Qufu has wide bike lanes on both sides of the main roads. Do not be fooled into thinking that these are one-way thoroughfares or that they are only for bikes. Today I biked about a mile in the bike lane of Qufu's main road and counted 28 bikes, 3 rickshaws, 5 pedestrians, and one taxi going the "wrong" direction.

2. Try not to hit or be hit.

3. Pay attention to your surroundings. For example, the constant honking of cars is not only a delightful China soundtrack, but also a helpful warning that you will definitely be run over if you don't get out of the way. Also, as previously mentioned, any vehicle could be going any direction on any part of the road at any given time.

4. Your bike is not just for transportation. It is also a convenient attachment for your food service or rickshaw business!

In the U.S., street biking is mostly for the serious biker. But in Qufu, you'll share the road with everyone from middle schoolers getting out of school to senior citizens crawling along on bikes older than they are. And as you swerve your knock-off "Giont" brand bike to miss the mangy puppy that just trotted into your path you can ask yourself, "Is this normal?" Yes, yes it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment