Cycle China: Week 4

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September 29, 2011

In this special five-part series, we're riding along with SWA Group landscape designer Amirah Shahid as she cycles nearly 800 miles from Beijing to Shanghai (find the previous posts here). Join us as she tells about her journey and files exclusive photos from the road in an attempt to better understand China's urban and rural biking culture. Week Three: Arriving in Shanghai...

 

Landscape designer Amirah Shahid has dodged cows and poplar bark drying along roadsides on her nearly 800-mile cycling journey from Beijing to Shanghai. In this update, she makes it to her final destination—but not without a ferry trip to cross the Yangtze River (where bikes are not allowed on the bridge)—and contends with smog and rain along the way. Her SWA Group colleagues from the Shanghai office, however, were ready to toast her success upon arrival with glasses held high at an Oktoberfest Festival organized by a local Chinese development group. Read on!

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  Shahid started her last legs of cycling in Yangzhou, about 180 miles northwest of Shanghai. This tree-covered walkway connects courtyards in the city's Ge Garden. "Walking down the main streets, one would never guess that the interiors of the old buildings are hiding such detailed gardens behind their walls," she says.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Shahid started her last legs of cycling in Yangzhou, about 180 miles northwest of Shanghai. This tree-covered walkway connects courtyards in the city's Ge Garden. "Walking down the main streets, one would never guess that the interiors of the old buildings are hiding such detailed gardens behind their walls," she says.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

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  Shahid watched this boat pass under a floating pavilion in Yangzhou's Slender West Lake Park, which is modeled after the more famous West Lake Park in Hangzhou.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Shahid watched this boat pass under a floating pavilion in Yangzhou's Slender West Lake Park, which is modeled after the more famous West Lake Park in Hangzhou.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  On a nearly two-mile strip of road outside Changzhou, Shahid spotted "every possible type of street lighting imaginable lining both sides of the street," she says. "This amount of production seemed crazy in such a concentrated area, but considering the rate of growth and the size of China, these lights are probably just a small percentage of what's actually needed."  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    On a nearly two-mile strip of road outside Changzhou, Shahid spotted "every possible type of street lighting imaginable lining both sides of the street," she says. "This amount of production seemed crazy in such a concentrated area, but considering the rate of growth and the size of China, these lights are probably just a small percentage of what's actually needed."

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

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  By day two of her trip, Shahid changed her plan of taking only local roads and switched to riding on the national roads, which are one tier down from the much more busy highway arterials. She's come across sections of the national roads that are still under construction or newly completed and thus closed to cars but open to bikers. "This happens about twice a week, and I love it," she says. "It's like having my own personal highway."  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    By day two of her trip, Shahid changed her plan of taking only local roads and switched to riding on the national roads, which are one tier down from the much more busy highway arterials. She's come across sections of the national roads that are still under construction or newly completed and thus closed to cars but open to bikers. "This happens about twice a week, and I love it," she says. "It's like having my own personal highway."

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

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  Despite mostly taking the national roads, Shahid still cycled on the local roads here and there. "They gave me a break from traffic," she says. Trucks are less common and she passed or was passed by only the occasional car or bike. Rest stops and shops selling snacks and cold drinks, however, are far fewer and much more spread out on the local roads than the national thoroughfares.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Despite mostly taking the national roads, Shahid still cycled on the local roads here and there. "They gave me a break from traffic," she says. Trucks are less common and she passed or was passed by only the occasional car or bike. Rest stops and shops selling snacks and cold drinks, however, are far fewer and much more spread out on the local roads than the national thoroughfares.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

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  Upon arriving in Suzhou, Shahid ran into traffic in the bike lane as she and fellow two-wheeled travelers waited for the street lights to change.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Upon arriving in Suzhou, Shahid ran into traffic in the bike lane as she and fellow two-wheeled travelers waited for the street lights to change.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  In Suzhou, Shahid stopped to tour around, which included a visit to the Tiger Hill Garden. "The historic gardens are not the peaceful sanctuaries one would expect," she reports. "Crowds of tour groups, each with a loud microphoned guide, make the already small courtyard spaces feel even smaller."  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    In Suzhou, Shahid stopped to tour around, which included a visit to the Tiger Hill Garden. "The historic gardens are not the peaceful sanctuaries one would expect," she reports. "Crowds of tour groups, each with a loud microphoned guide, make the already small courtyard spaces feel even smaller."

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  Bikes are prohibited on the bridge where Shahid planned to cross the Yangtze River. Instead, she rode on a ferry like the one shown in this image. "The ride was everything but a romantic river cruise thanks to the smog blocking the view across the river," she says. Shahid chatted with the ferry attendant, who told her that about 20,000 cars cross on the ferry every day, but only 15 to 20 bikes are seen on the boats in that same time period.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Bikes are prohibited on the bridge where Shahid planned to cross the Yangtze River. Instead, she rode on a ferry like the one shown in this image. "The ride was everything but a romantic river cruise thanks to the smog blocking the view across the river," she says. Shahid chatted with the ferry attendant, who told her that about 20,000 cars cross on the ferry every day, but only 15 to 20 bikes are seen on the boats in that same time period.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  "The rubble, scaffolding, and cranes increased in frequency and scale as I got closer to Shanghai," Shahid reports.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    "The rubble, scaffolding, and cranes increased in frequency and scale as I got closer to Shanghai," Shahid reports.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  At last, Shanghai. "I made it just in time to avoid the rain and any possible delays in my travel plans," she says.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    At last, Shanghai. "I made it just in time to avoid the rain and any possible delays in my travel plans," she says.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  The rain, however, didn't stop the local cyclists in Shanghai. "The bike lanes were still just as crowded as in good, sunny conditions," Shahid says.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    The rain, however, didn't stop the local cyclists in Shanghai. "The bike lanes were still just as crowded as in good, sunny conditions," Shahid says.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  Separated bike lanes on busy Shanghai streets let bikers move quickly past cars that are stopped in heavy vehicular traffic.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Separated bike lanes on busy Shanghai streets let bikers move quickly past cars that are stopped in heavy vehicular traffic.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  Shanghai boasts a bike-sharing program similar to Vélib’ in Paris and Bixi in North American cities like Montreal and Washington, D.C. Shahid, however, didn't see any of these bikes on the street. "One of the complaints and reasons it's not successful here is the infrequency of stations to pick up and drop off the bikes," she says. "At least they look good on the side of the road."  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Shanghai boasts a bike-sharing program similar to Vélib’ in Paris and Bixi in North American cities like Montreal and Washington, D.C. Shahid, however, didn't see any of these bikes on the street. "One of the complaints and reasons it's not successful here is the infrequency of stations to pick up and drop off the bikes," she says. "At least they look good on the side of the road."

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  This bike-parking area at a Shanghai subway stop was packed. "It indicated the fact that people are combining biking with public transportation," she observes.  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    This bike-parking area at a Shanghai subway stop was packed. "It indicated the fact that people are combining biking with public transportation," she observes.

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  Shahid met up with Susan Evans and her Good to China team in their Shanghai studio to talk about biking in the city. Good to China studies projects related to sustainable transportation infrastructure and urban farming. "They say the biggest problem with biking in Shanghai is the fact that each district within the city manages its bike lanes independently, and they aren't all connected," Shahid says. "The disconnect between neighborhoods makes it difficult to ride through the city if you're going further than district boundaries."  Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Shahid met up with Susan Evans and her Good to China team in their Shanghai studio to talk about biking in the city. Good to China studies projects related to sustainable transportation infrastructure and urban farming. "They say the biggest problem with biking in Shanghai is the fact that each district within the city manages its bike lanes independently, and they aren't all connected," Shahid says. "The disconnect between neighborhoods makes it difficult to ride through the city if you're going further than district boundaries."

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

  • 
  Shahid (pictured in the middle on the left bench) raised a glass with her SWA Group colleagues from the Shanghai office. "It showed how Shanghai embraces international cultures by celebrating my safe arrival at an Oktoberfest Festival put on by a Chinese development group," she says. Stayed tuned for our final installment of this five-part Cycle China series, in which we chat with Shahid back on U.S. soil.Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!   Photo by: Amirah Shahid
    Shahid (pictured in the middle on the left bench) raised a glass with her SWA Group colleagues from the Shanghai office. "It showed how Shanghai embraces international cultures by celebrating my safe arrival at an Oktoberfest Festival put on by a Chinese development group," she says. Stayed tuned for our final installment of this five-part Cycle China series, in which we chat with Shahid back on U.S. soil.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

    Photo by: Amirah Shahid

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