Biking alongside millions of people in large Chinese cities such as Beijing or Shanghai can be a bit crazy and will definitely raise your heartbeat. While there are designated bike lanes, cars will use them at will to park or drive in and there are also pedestrians and motorbikes which will use them. Despite the danger of biking in cities where anything goes, we love getting some exercise while enjoying the hopefully fresh air and sunshine. So brush the dust off your secondhand bike and stay safe with the following tips:
1. Take it slow
Slow and steady wins the race or in this case, keeps you alive. Until you become an expert at weaving in an out of traffic and people, biking at a leisurely pace will keep you safe.
2. Keep your eyes open
This might seem like an obvious piece of advice but this is more about keeping the eyes on the back of your head open. Know what is coming up behind you and always look behind before moving even just so slightly to your left or right. Also pay attention to patches of rough road or random holes in the ground which might cause your bike to flip or put you off balance.
3. Keep your ears open
Most bikes in China have bells so you should hear when another biker is nearby which will help you keep a safe distance from them. Wearing earphones while biking in China is NOT safe.
4. Expect the unexpected
There are no road rules in China and cars, people, bikes and stray animals will suddenly stop or weave in front of you. Take special care when biking past parked cars as someone might suddenly and obliviously step out in front of you or open a car door. Chinese people don’t often look both ways prior to moving and are unlikely to see you first. Be on the offensive! If the street is not too busy, it might be safer to bike in the middle of the road instead of next to parked cars. Keep your hands on the brakes so you can quickly stop and avert danger.
5. Use the bell
Although it might seem dorky to have a basket and bell on your bike, your bike bell needs to become your new best friend. To be on the safe side, you might consider ringing it constantly during your journey. If you find that too annoying, then make sure at the very least to ring the bell anytime you are approaching people or areas of blocked vision.
6. Buy two or three locks
Speaking of safety, keep your bike safe in China by having two heavy-duty locks. They can be purchased for about 50rmb each from bike vendors on the street. Your bike will be stolen in China; it’s just a matter of time. Make sure to lock it up each time and park it in an area with many other bikes. It is not recommended to buy a new bike unless you have money to burn. Secondhand bikes that look old but ride new are the way to go.
After a few months of biking in China, you’ll get a better idea of what crazy things might happen during your ride and how to avoid them, but don’t get overconfident. China is nothing if not a country full of surprises.