Growing up in Hong Kong, I was one of the few lucky kids to live in a bike-friendly neighborhood — very rare for this crowded concrete jungle. My trusty bicycle accompanied me for much of my youth until my university years, and even now, whenever I travel I look for a chance to explore the city on bicycle.
I recall my first visit to Beijing back in 1988 as a university student, and I stayed in a hostel just for foreigners. Across the street was a small shop renting out those big and heavy bikes. Without hesitation, I hired one, and for one entire week I explored the twists and turns of China’s capital city on these two wheels. Back then, the clear blue sky and fresh breeze were taken for granted, such common yet simple pleasures that connected me immediately — and intimately — to this ancient city. There is something about the crispness of the air and freedom on a bike that makes one feel like a local, even in a foreign city.
Since then, I have enjoyed riding a bike in many different parts of the world — Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam, Montreal, Kyoto and now Paris and London with the growing popularity of communal bikes there. Recently, I have been spending more and more time in Taipei, and the U Bike initiative there further connects me to the city. This is a city that just amazes me with how much detail and infrastructure has been invested to turn it bike-friendly — not merely in the road curbs or signage, but also the mentality of the entire population.
Unfortunately, the city that ignited my love of bike-riding is no long as bike-friendly as it use to be.
I believe there are many others like me who would choose biking as their first mode of transport for exploring a new city. As a hospitality designer, I am interested to know what initiatives urban cities and the hospitality industry will implement in the future to cater to this need for adventurous travelers.
And as a Chinese person from Hong Kong, I always believe and hope that the next time we see this capital city full of bikers will be the start of a new season of life and development in Beijing.