Bicycling, Beijing - Shanghai, part 2

by Sep 07, 2011
by Amirah Shahid Sep 07, 2011



I landed in Beijing a week ago to embark on a cycling journey to Shanghai. Many weeks of planning and preparation is starting to come to life this past week. Over the past 5 day, I have made it from Beijing to the capital of Shandong Province-Jinan.

The roadways and traffic are not nearly as scary as I thought they were going to be. Major cities have bike lanes separated from the main traffic by a planted barrier or fencing. Crossing intersections can be a bit daunting at first, but luckily there are enough other bikers on the street that I can just pick one person that seems to know what they’re doing and follow them. Outside of urban areas, the national roads have wide shoulders and are not nearly as busy as the major freeways that I am carefully avoiding. They have been lined with formal rows of street trees that provide nice shade and occasionally open up into views of wide-open crop fields.

The language difference, with me not knowing a bit of Chinese, was another concern. Travelling has been very manageable despite this. I have many translated cards of key phrases about booking hotel rooms, ordering food in restaurants, buying water, etc… People also seem to appreciate the project description that I’ve had translated to explain who I am and what I’m doing. I’ve also been able to find Chinese youth that have learned a little bit of English in school to help me out along the way. Everyone has been more than hospitable and welcoming toward me. I also have a cell phone and plenty of people in China that I can call in case I get into a situation where I need help translating. This offers great peace of mind and lets me relax and not worry too much when interacting with others.

I’m beginning to get more of an understanding of just how quickly China is growing by the number and frequency of new development projects along the way. There are signs everywhere, even in seemingly remote areas, of new master planned communities coming in the future. This, combined with the large number of bikes I’m seeing on the road, makes the questions I’m asking about how bikes can be incorporated in future landscape architecture/planning developments even more relevant to me. There are bikes everywhere and seem to be here to stay. I’m looking forward to the next couple weeks and further exploring the way bikes fit into the current and developing landscape.

Cyclists, pedestrians, buses and cars all move simultaneously, without division, through a busy Beijing intersection

Designated bike parking along the streets of Beijing

A local Beijing bike store sells new bikes and parts in a city dominated by old unmaintained looking bikes. 60% of the new bikes sold are to locals - 40% to foreigners.

Cars, bikes, and pedestrians share highway lanes in Tianjin

My bags unpacked. 3 changes of clothing for a 3 week bike tour packed into 3 bags. It’s humid and hot. I’m regretting the decision to bring a winter hat and extra wool layers just in case I need them - it seems unlikely.

An unmaintained road, following the river, is the quietest and safest way to leave Beijing. Farmers tend agriculture growing along the river banks and only 10 cars are seen for 10 km.

Bike Parking on Beijing’s Peking University’s campus. Cycling is the primary mode of transportation for students living on campus at this large university.

Darkness doesn't stop people from commuting via bike in Cangzhou

Lots of people in uniform commuting to and from the local hospital near Jinan

Typical tree lined national road between Dezhou and Jinan

Daming Lake Park is a popular place for men to gather, play games, and enjoy each others' company

Caged birds providing a tweeting ambiance are common in China's urban open spaces.



Amirah Shahid

Amirah Shahid, YouthLA Volunteer, landscape designer.

2 discussions
  1. zhou says:

    It’s a great learning by doing story. Thank you so much for sharing. I wish I’ve a chance to do the same thing in my Country. It’s also very impressive to see those common scenes from a Landscape Architect’s eye.

  2. Will says:

    Be along with you!

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Amirah Shahid

Amirah Shahid, YouthLA Volunteer, landscape designer.

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