Shanghai can do much more to make this city bicycle friendly
Published: Jun 19, 2018 07:08 PM
Even with the revival of bicycling in Shanghai and the advent of bike-sharing companies such as Ofo and Mobike, the days are long gone when bikes were absolutely essential commuting and traveling tools. Today, fitness-savvy citizens in Shanghai ride Ofo and Mobike bicycles not only for commuting purposes, but also as a personal statement to be part of the new green and healthy lifestyle movement.

While Shanghai citizens are re-interpreting bicycling for fun and fitness, the city has been quick to present modern metropolitan dwellers a tremendous gift by introducing the iconic Tour de France. Just as marathons and half-marathons are wildly popular in China, with many cities literally racing to launch their own local events, the proud and pioneering metropolis of Shanghai leads the country by offering something big and new - Tour de France Shanghai.

In October of 2017, the Tour de France Shanghai, China's first experiment with this world-class event, was a huge success. For the first time, Shanghai citizens enjoyed the spectacle of top cyclists speeding down closed-off city streets, an iconic experience.

In front of the Chinese Pavilion, winner Chris Froome took the Shanghai Criterium, the 22nd stage of the tour. According to its official website, the victory tasted more like a "gift" to Chinese fans who gathered to celebrate the first Tour de France winner to China.

Of course, the joy and glory did not belong to the elite professional bicyclers alone. Apart from the Criterium reserved for the best professionals, amateurs were also part of the game in the form of a "challenge ride." The thrill of bicycling along otherwise traffic-jammed boulevards while being cheered by fans was surreal.

The rules for amateurs were straightforward. You must be fit and healthy, aged 16-60, riding a normal bike, wearing a helmet for basic protection and pay a reasonable fee of 380 yuan ($58.6). Well, of course, you must ride on a normal bike, not something outrageous like a tricycle or even an Ofo. Meeting the above criteria, amateurs enjoyed the "challenge" and could expect a much stronger sense of accomplishment than taking part in a traditional marathon.

In early June, the announcement came that the second installment of Tour de France Shanghai would take place this coming November. I congratulate the city and its people as Shanghai's partnership with Tour de France continues.

The top bicycling event is indeed a true blessing for fitness-savvy citizens of Shanghai, as they continue to demand better and more enriched lifestyle offerings. Only true world-class events such as Tour de France deserve this high level of sophistication.

Meanwhile, let's hope the streets of Shanghai become more bicycle friendly. Shanghai is famous for organizing super events, demonstrated by the wildly popular World Expo. Likewise, effective traffic control, strict law enforcement, good road conditions and a clean urban setting have all contributed to the success of the first Tour de France event in China.

Now I want to challenge the city to do even more. It is easier to organize a world-class bicycling event along closed-off city streets than it is to maintain consistent, high-efficiency urban bicycling lanes. To encourage more people to this healthy, green lifestyle movement, there is room for improvement. I'd like to see more infrastructure developed in the city specifically for bike traveling, such as lanes that strictly prohibit cars, motorcycles and scooters. It would be a boon for fitness-savvy citizens to conveniently enjoy biking around in the city as much as they'd like to, instead of only occasionally and sporadically.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.


Illustration:Lu Ting/GT