Beijing Bikes

By Marianne Schwab | Best Travel Deals Tips Blog

Due to the unique bicycle culture, China is nicknamed the "Bicycle Kingdom" and bicycling is a life style for the residents of that country. Americans could definitely learn something from the people of Beijing - bike riding is a great transportation method that saves gas, money and gets you in shape. When I visited China, I was absolutely captivated by the number of people using bicycles as their main source of transportation.

[Photo: Rickshaws parade through a hutong alley in Beijing.]

Hutongs are the old traditional alleyways and courtyard homes that were once all over Beijing, but sadly, they are disappearing. In fact, Hutongs may no longer be a part of Beijing culture in the coming years since they are being torn down to make way for modern housing. Cycle rickshaws are a traditional means of transportation in the old narrow streets in Hutongs.

When you hear the word rickshaw, you may think of the two-wheeled carts pulled around by Kramer in that hilarious Seinfeld episode. But rickshaws are actually three-wheeled bicycles often driven by old, retired men and there are fleets of them circling around Beijing always willing to take passengers. There is no set fee for a ride, so you just have to decide how much you are willing to spend, but a standard rate is about 30 to 50 yuan.

[Photo: Beijing residents on bikes near Tianamens Square.]

[Photo: Father and daughter on bicycle in Beijing.]

Families use the bicycle in Beijing like American families use mini-vans. Granted, in China, this has more to do with personal economics than being environmentally correct, but it was a never ending source of fascination for me as I toured Beijing and then, southern China in Guilin and the areas surrounding the Li River.

It's not unusual for entire families to be riding on one bicycle. On my first day in Beijing, I saw a man riding a bike with a trailer type contraption attached that he used to haul his wife, son and daughter. Highly unusual since China has a one child rule so we thought they may have been from a rural area where couples are allowed to have more than one child. Unfortunately, I did not snap that photo.

[Photo: Street cleaner on bicycle in Beijing.]

[Photo: Sanitation worker in Beijing.]

[Photo: Oversized load in Beijing.]

[Photo: Hazardous load on a bike in Beijing.]

[Photo: Recycling cardboard in Beijing.]

[Photo: Hutong worker in Beijing.]

[Photo: Moving day in Beijing.]

[Photo: Bicycle taxi cab in Beijing.]

[Photo: Fruit Stand bike in Yangshuo, China.]

[Photo: The morning commute in Guilin City.]

[Photo: Daxu village girl with antique bicycle.]

Daxu is an ancient town located on the east bank of the Li River, a little over 14 miles southeast of Guilin City. Daxu is more than 1000 years old and the town was established in the early Northern Song Dynasty (960-1126.

Beijing is the king of the bike kingdom and I love this song by Katie Melua titled "Nine Million Bicycles in Beijing" that also tells how westerners feel about the bikes in Beijing.

Your vacation ro China can take a year or more to save for and only a second to ruin. Before you go, you may want to purchase travel insurance through Travel Guard. Starting at $30.

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