Beijing by bike

Probably the best way to visit Beijing is by bike. At least compared to buses (continuously stuck in traffic jams) or by foot (by foot??? Do you have any idea how big this city is???). And as Beijing is flat like Holland it is not too hard neither. So for 3 days we rented some high-tech made-in-China bikes to explore the city and really merge with the locals joining the bicycle-buzz visiting among others the Summer Palace, the Ancient Observatory and the Lama Temple.

First thing to do when you rent a bike is to check if the “Beijing-by-bike-survival-kit” is ok. This kit includes a few important weapons very useful when cycling around here. First, at least one break that brakes reasonably well (two working brakes would be too much of a luxury really and definitely not fit with the “local style”). And second, the most important weapon when cycling around: a working bell!!! When you check your bike before rental, make sure that it works even after intensive use for at least five minutes as this might will be your key to survival.

Now the bell has a vital function in that it defines who has priority in a conflict situation: the one with the bell that is loudest has priority over the one who has a less loud bell. However, the one with a bell that is not doing the standard “tring-ring” has priority over the standard ones. Then there are also other vehicles taking part in the traffic: taxis and buses mainly, that just do not care about any bell you have, here the weapon “one reasonably functioning brake” comes in very handy most of the time. It is to be noted however that sometimes French swear words, screamed loudly at the head of a taxi-driver, might create some exceptional priority situation in which a taxi will let pass a bicycle because the driver is too occupied figuring out where these strange noises came from (this stategy is however less likely to work on a bus).

So now that all the weapons are set, it is time to learn the rules, which is quite easy as there is only one: there are no rules (well except for the variate priority rules as explained above). Basically forget everything you learned over 25 years of education: red from now on means green, green means “green for everybody and in all directions” and “stop” is a bad word that should be banned from all dictionaries on earth.

It is great fun though and once you get used to the chinese relaxed way of “cruising” through town, you are likely not to want to use any other means of transport. :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe


  1. mamma
    Posted September 25, 2007 at 20:54 | Permalink

    Nous disions souvent, Alain e moi, que les Chinois sont les Italiens d’Orient, meme chaleur dans l’accueil, attitudes similaires dans les negociations : souriants mais intraitables, beaucoup d’affabilite et de gentillesse dans les rapports. Visiblement, ils en ont aussi les caracteristiques dans la conduite. Relax et chacun ses regles, tout ca dans la bonne humeur et, ma foi, pas plus d’accidents qu’ailleurs ! Evviva !!!!

  2. Posted September 25, 2007 at 22:58 | Permalink

    Sounds very funny! One million bicycles in bejing. Imagine what it means when they would all ring the bell at the same moment.

    It’s real great that you both let us participate on your adventures. Thank you very much for that!

  3. Posted September 26, 2007 at 12:06 | Permalink

    pour des musiciens est-ce que c’est supportable??? vu notre nom , on devrait se sentir à l’aise dans ce pays . bises

  4. Posted September 26, 2007 at 18:52 | Permalink

    Je ne peux pas imaginer qu’un jour les bicyclettes seront remplacées par des automobiles sans changer la seule règle de circulation (il n’y a pas de règle)? Ce serait plus qu’une révolution, mais ça ne me semble pas encore pour demain. Vos photos et les commentaires sont magnifiques! Continuez

  5. Posted October 19, 2007 at 15:14 | Permalink

    Vera en JC,

    dat lijkt me schitterend om rond te fietsen door Beijing en dat was het ook als ik je verhaal lees…het ene avontuur is nog fraaier dan het andere..blijf ons op de hoogte houden want ik geniet als ik zit te lezen

    Liefs voor jullie allebei!