Body & Sports

Bicycle riding for an expat in Xiamen

Updated: 2016-08-10
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Read more on: biking in Xiamen  


Sharing roads among motorists, bikes, and pedestrians in Xiamen is not always a treat. Any committed cyclist in a typical Chinese city has felt the pressure of being crowded by heavy traffic or almost sideswiped by aggressive drivers. But bicycles continue to be an important part of the life and culture of China. It's up to cyclists to remind drivers that we have an equal right to use the roads of our cities, and to make Xiamen, and all of China's cities, safer and friendlier for cyclists.




These days, bicycles come in many shapes and forms, especially in the sports and leisure industries, which once upon a time were almost non-existent in Xiamen. The number of people who use bike as their primary mode of transportation is clearly much lower than in the past, but bikes are still everywhere -- for food delivery, for students and young people who can't yet afford a car, and for countless people whose commute is short enough to choose the more economic and environmentally friendly way of biking.
Then, of course, there are those of us who bike for pleasure -- although the challenges we face as cyclists in China sometimes make it hard to enjoy this past time, which is much older than the automobile itself.
Xiamen is a densely populated city; roads are often congested; traffic jams are common during rush hour. Ask anyone who regularly cycles in almost any Chinese city, and he or she will have at least one story of being narrowly missed, bumped, driven off the road, or even hit by a passing motorist.
Xiamen has grown relatively fast around the city's existing roads, leaving barely enough room for the traffic that increases every year. Now with the ongoing construction of Xiamen’s first metro line, traffic congestion has increased dramatically, roadways have been reduced in size, and yet here we are still, sharing the road. The room left for bikes on the sides of the roads or the few designated bike paths in the city has been reduced to centimeters.
As a cyclist, I have been pushed to the curb by buses pulling into their stops. The drivers seemed to show no regard for the person on the bike beside them. The doors of the buses have opened as I passed by, forcing me to stop, only to be pushed and yelled at as I tried to keep myself from falling. I have had buses turn in front of me while I was riding beside them, assuming that I would get out of the way without considering that if I moved to the side a little too slowly, or if I failed to notice the bus turning as it passed me, I would almost certainly be crushed.
I have been hit by a car beside me as he turned, pinning me to the curb, knocking me over. I have watched that driver quickly drove away, knowing full well that he hit someone. A foreign friend of mine was hit by a truck and knocked to the ground. He suffered a broken arm and was taken to the hospital. The truck driver committed a hit and run. He wasn't caught -- there were no consequences for his actions.
The attitude among most drivers in China seems to be that cyclists are the reckless ones, and that any collision between a car and a bike is the fault of the biker.
Drivers need to be educated. They need to learn that bikes have every right to be on the road, just as automobiles do.
We need a campaign - Watch for bikes, save a life
Watch for bikes, save a life! Our purpose is to raise road safety aware among motorists in Xiamen to be on the lookout for -- and respect the rights of -- cyclists. For our first trial run, we will launch an organized bicycle ride of about 30 to 40 people on September 3rd, 2016 through a predetermined route, stopping at some major hotels, following all traffic rules and safety practices, in an effort to make motorists (buses, trucks, cars) aware of the rights of cyclists on the streets of Xiamen. 
The campaign is to promote the slogan “Watch for Bikes, Save a Life," to raise awareness among motorists that they should watch for cyclists, as we are all road users; however, as cyclists, our safety, our life, and our family’s stakes are in their hands.
As a cyclist, I also have responsibilities. I need to be aware of my surroundings. I should strictly follow the rules of the road. Weaving in and out of traffic or using the sidewalk and creating a problem for others only causes motorists to think that bikes shouldn't be on the road. If I hit a pedestrian while riding, I become the aggressor, and they become the victim. I should also never forget that the moment I get on the road, I can easily become the victim; just a moment of carelessness could end in a broken bone or worse.
"Watch for bikes, save a life" aims to remind all the motorists out there on the streets of China, or any other country for that matter, that cyclists have equal rights to share the road with motorists. Our safety and our lives are in the hands of the people around us.
Take a moment to support "Watch for Bikes, Save a Life" by reminding motorists to respect the space of bikes on the road. Every little bit counts.
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