Going the extra mile with bikes

Anina Visser
The shared bike era has not only made it easy to commute across Shanghai, but is being used by many to stay fit as well.
Anina Visser
Lisa Van der Wath / Ti Gong

Kayla Steenkamp (left), from South Africa, and her friend Anelda Botes ride along the Suzhou Creek in Putuo District.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A group of expats ride bikes in downtown Shanghai.

Getting around in a city with over 24 million people can be hard and tricky, but luckily we are spoilt with choices like shared bikes which are increasingly enjoying an edge over Metro.  

“Cycling is an ancestral culture in China, but it reached a new level with the shared bike era,” says Francis Hau, an avid cyclist and founder of the Shanghai Bike Ride group.

Hau, a native of France, moved to Shanghai in 2008 before the onset of the shared bicycle revolution.

“When I arrived in Shanghai, there were more cars and scooters on the street than bicycles.”

The introduction of shared bikes in 2014 has ensured that most streets in Shanghai are colored bright yellow, orange, green and blue. Ofo, a Beijing-based station-free bike-sharing platform, said its mission has always been to promote sustainable transportation to make the last mile of commuting a green one.

With shared bicycles scattered across the sidewalk in Shanghai, the popularity of cycling seems to be growing for both commuting and exercising purposes. Now shared bicycles don't only solve the “last mile” problem, but also the “extra mile” struggle by encouraging people to do a little more exercise every day.

Hau says he always noticed a high demand for cycling in Shanghai but never really as an activity that can connect people to exercise.

“I initially wanted to do some exercise after work and posted on WeChat to find people with similar needs. Many responded to the post, so the number of members has not stopped growing since.”

Hau’s biking group, which now has 350 members, meets around three times a week to ride a 10-kilometer route starting from Zhongshan Park.

Genavieve Coleman, an English teacher from the United States, says the cycling culture in Shanghai is a very layman area.

“Common people become cross-city cyclers,” she says.

Coleman, who has been living in Shanghai for over a year, says cycling is a relaxing physical activity that also gets her to places.

“You can see the city from a different perspective and explore new places,” says Calvin Lin, a customer service consultant from Taiwan and a member of the biking group.

Ti Gong

Members of the Shanghai Bike Ride group enjoy an afternoon ride along the south Bund.

David Lingerak, from the Netherlands, says he loves to cycle in Shanghai because he can feel and see the city that way. “I love to hear the wind in my ears when I ride through Shanghai.”

Lingerak says the culture of cycling in Shanghai is quite different from that in the “cycling capital of the world,” the Netherlands.

“I’m Dutch, so I could ride a bike before I could walk and I’ve basically cycled my entire life. Bikes go much slower here and the gears here are different from the Dutch bikes, which is a good thing as the traffic here is much more crowded. People ride anywhere ─ me too ─ and the lower speed helps prevent accidents,” he explains.

Lingerak says in Holland people on bikes are really pushy, so even with the chaos in Shanghai he thinks it’s more friendly.

Compared with most cities in the US, Coleman says that Shanghai is a very cycling-friendly city. However, she adds that it’s not always safe to cycle here.

“The rules and spaces provided for cyclists are not always respected by everyone. Although the spaces and needs are there, the order and respect are often missing,” she notes.

Taiwan native Lin says the impatience of scooter riders also gets on his nerves every time there is a “sudden beep” from the back.

There are numerous cycling routes across Shanghai. Both Coleman and Lingerak recommend exploring the smaller streets in the downtown area for an easy ride. Lingerak says that the best time to ride is in the evening when the streets are a bit quieter and the air is a little cooler.

So next time you are on a shared bike, don't hesitate to take a few extra turns on your way home — you might just find yourself enjoying it.

Ti Gong

Francis Hau (left), founder of the Shanghai Bike Ride, enjoys an evening ride with his friend Joanna Zhang on Guangfu Road W.

Popular cycling routes in and around Shanghai

Shanghai is quite a cycling-friendly city with numerous bike lanes and routes to choose from. Here are six routes from recommended by local and expat cycling lovers for those who are keen to take up cycling as a daily exercise or just as a means of exploring the city.

Just remember if you are out cycling, steer clear of Nanjing, Beijing, Huaihai and Xizang roads as these are closed to bikers.


Longteng Avenue (south to north)

It is basically a portion of the south Bund where there is a dedicated bike line. 

“This route has a nice view of the other side of the Huangpu River and the Shanghai skyline,” says Francis Hau. However, as the Bund is quite crowded with tourists, try to avoid this route during weekends and holidays.

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Longteng Avenue


Puming Road (south to north)

Located in Pudong, this route provides a perfect combination of cycling and a bit of sightseeing. 

“This route allows you to take in a lot of green space while getting a perfect view of the Lujiazui area,” says Hau. 

Similar to the Longteng Avenue route, you might want to steer clear of Puming Road over weekends and holidays when there are many people in the area.


Along the Suzhou Creek

By using Suzhou Creek as a point of reference, you can easily create your own route along the river that can stretch as far as 17 kilometers.

It is a nice scenic route although the numerous bridges can pose an obstacle when you have to push your bike across them. A good place to start cycling next to Suzhou Creek is Guangfu Road.


Wukang Road area

The area covering Wukang, Dongping, Yongfu, Tai’an and Taojiang roads is not only a cherished region for coffee and art lovers, but also for avid bikers. English teacher Genavieve Coleman says that she loves cycling through the quieter streets of that area, which can also include Julu, Xinle, Changle and Wulumuqi roads.

“It tends to have lower buildings and plenty of tree-lined lanes,” Coleman says, “which makes it the perfect place for an easy ride.

“Although the narrow streets can sometimes be a bit tricky, you should be able to have a hassle-free ride if you explore the area in the late afternoon or evening.”

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Wukang Road


Fuxing Road (west to east)

“Fuxing Road is great,” says David Lingerak. “The trees are nice and there are also different types of buildings around to make it a captivating ride.

“The bicycle lane from west to east is really wide and has a good surface,” he adds.

However, Fuxing Road is one way for cyclists, then from east to west it is a nightmare. So make sure you're on the right side of the road.


Around West Lake, Hangzhou

For any cyclists who want to get out of Shanghai a bit, Hangzhou is the perfect place for a nice weekend of riding. The West Lake is an ideal destination as there are various routes around the lake and surrounding hilltops.

A ride around the lake is about 16 kilometers. A bit further out you can even ride to the Longjing tea fields. 

Getting your own bicycle to Hangzhou might be a problem, but luckily there are plenty of shared bikes to go around in the neighboring city.

SHINE

West Lake, Hangzhou


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