It could be better, the riding conditions that is, maybe somewhere in utopia. But in the city where I am, it’s about as good as it gets.
Urban cycling has been on an upswing around most of the world, with major bike sharing programs and thousands of miles of new bike lanes in the major cities of Europe, N & S America, and China. But in China, it’s a matter of preserving a way of transport for a large portion of the population.
After 10 days of biking to and from work, it’s easy to understand why the thousands of Chinese bike delivery guys in NYC ride in all and every direction, seemingly oblivious to bicycle rules of the road. In China, the rules are there are no rules, almost. In NYC it’s against the law to ride on the sidewalk. In this city, it’s against the law if you don’t. The difference is that sidewalks here were built wide enough to accommodate foot and bicycle traffic. But the density of some streets with pedestrians and cyclists make it wise to pay good attention, the only concern may be getting hit by another two-wheeler.
And like the Chinese delivery bikes in NYC, most of the bikes here are e-bikes, meaning they are electrically powered. That difference is huge. In Medellin and Bangkok, two cities with tens of thousands of motorbikes, the streets are filled with the pollution, noise and fumes, of two-stroke engines. In Zhanjiagang, it’s tens of thousands of stealth riders, hardly making a sound as they pass by, the only pollution coming from the power plants used to generate the electricity for the charges their batteries require.
Riding in cities such as NYC, San Francisco, or Medellin puts you in constant competition with cars, trucks and busses for space on the road. Bikers in most US cities are in the distinct minority, drivers not always on the lookout. Here, not only are there separated bike lanes on most all roads, but because there are so many on two wheels, drivers of four wheeled vehicles are on the lookout. The liability for hitting a cyclist is stiff.
There is still weather to contend with. The other day I was not as prepared for the rain as I could have been as I headed to work. (It was only a couple of hours until my jeans dried.) Still, the easy ability to commute in such a bike friendly environment is a pleasure and a privilege. If I only had my family of bikes with me, I’d be in bike heaven.