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The history of the “Bicycle Kingdom”
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A brief history of the “Bicycle Kingdom”
Let’s take a look at how proud Chinese people were of owning bicycles in the 1970s and how their attitudes have changed toward them.

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The bicycle was the first mass-produced product that became popular in China. In the 1950s, bicycles were still rare, but by the 1960s and 1970s, had become an important part of people’s lives. Along with the sewing machine and watch, the bike was considered one of the “Big Three”. These household items demonstrated a family’s wealth. When people talked about the bicycle brands “Flying Pigeon ” or “Shanghai Forever ” at that time, it was akin to them talking about a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz today. If a family lost their bicycle, the police would try very seriously to find the thief. By the end of 1980s, bike culture took hold even in China’s rural areas. Farmers favored bikes like the “Phoenix” and “Shanghai Forever” because of their usefulness and durability. They even took to personifying these bikes as female and male, respectively. At that time, China had 500 million bicycles. It was because of the large number of bicycles that China changed its development pace for the first time, as the bicycle helped bolster the economy. However, after ten years’ of glory, bicycles have become marginal goods in Chinese people’s lives. On the other hand, China’s bicycle industry also declined. The facts are as follows:

The birth of the first “ Shanghai Forever” bicycle, a required betrothal gift until the 1980s.
Bicycle production reached its peak of 44.72 million per year.
The EU increased the anti-dumping duty to 63.5% on imported of Chinese -made bicycles almost locking China out of the European market.
The China Bicycle Company, the biggest producer of export bicycles in China, filed for bankruptcy in mid- August, signalling the arrival of hard economic times for the “Bicycle Kingdom”.

As of now, China’s annual bike sales remain a stable 22 million. Unfortunately, with the popularity of personal cars, major changes have occurred in Chinese society. For instance, urbanites have profoundly altered their travel behavior in major cities. A bicycle is now not their first choice and the once familiar sight of streaming bicycles is no more. Next, the travel environment and safety conditions for bikes have deteriorated. Bike lanes have become filled with cars, as cars often park there causing cyclists to ride in fast-moving traffic or on sidewalks. Furthermore, with increased economic prosperity, the bicycle is no longer a symbol of wealth as one of the “Big Three ”. The “Bicycle Kingdom” is quickly becoming a “Car Country” as China has now surpassed Japan and America to become the world’s largest auto market.

According to recent findings, the proportion of pedestrians and cyclists is rapidly shrinking. The cyclist population is decreasing at a rate of 2%-5% annually. Take Beijing as an example, the percentage of cyclists reached its peak of 63% in the 1980’s. However, this figure has decreased to 18% since the late 1990’s. The figure below clearly shows that the annual per capita CO2 emissions from the transportation sector of Copenhagen is 35% less than Beijing’s. This graph illustrates how the decreased share of bicycle trips has led to increased carbon emissions in Beijing. Moreover, according to a recent opinion poll, 39.8% of respondents were mostly dissatisfied with the bicycle travel conditions in Beijing.

Because the loss of bicycles is changing the way people live and work , we have a responsibility to preserve China’s historical bike culture as it symbolizes our spirit of hard work and solidarity. We want bikes to be a part of our country’s future. Since we view them as an important element for more livable and environmentally-friendly cities, it is our goal to rescue the “Bicycle Kingdom”.
Copenhagen vs. Beijing: Annual Per Capita Carbon Emissions from the Transportation Sector

All background images and flashes were created by members of our team.
Copenhagen vs. Beijing: Annual Per Capita Carbon Emissions comes from GEHL ARCHITECTS, Non Motorized Mobility: Principles for a more Attractive, Livable & Sustainable Beijing, Produced for Hewlett foundation and China Sustainable City Program,2010



©2011 Rescuing the Bicycle Kingdom for ThinkQuest