When bike enthusiasts talk about their cycling history, they often share similar narratives. In 2019, Wang Zhuo’er wrote a book titled “Cycling in Shanghai: Reflections on Cycling Planning,” discussing the history, current status, and future planning vision of cycling in Shanghai. According to her and her research team’s findings, evidence of bicycles being introduced to China first appeared in an article published in the 1868 edition of the “Shanghai Xin Bao” newspaper. The Shanghai “Yongjiu,” which emerged in 1940, was one of the earliest domestic bicycle brands. From the 1980s to the early 1990s, Shanghai embarked on a new round of urbanization, but public transportation services lagged behind. As a result, bicycles played a significant role in meeting the demand for medium and long-distance travel, with bicycle usage rates reaching 32.8% in the mid-1990s. However, after 1995, due to national policies encouraging car purchases, urban road planning shifted towards motor vehicles. The previously connected cycling network was disrupted, and bicycles were gradually abandoned by urban residents.
The first wave of bicycle revival in China began around 2017 with the emergence of shared bicycles. Wang Zhuo’er discovered that many of her university classmates who had just arrived in Shanghai did not know how to ride a bike or understand why she was studying bicycles. “With the introduction of shared bicycles, people who had never ridden bikes before started to try it out. They gradually realized that the experience was different from riding a bus or a taxi. They felt like the city was surrounding them 360 degrees.”
Wang Zhuo’er herself picked up cycling habits after arriving in the Netherlands and brought them back to Shanghai. In this process, well-designed roads played a significant role in encouraging cycling. In well-known bicycle-friendly cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, cycling lanes on main roads are separated from motor vehicle lanes. At intersections, there are two-way bicycle lanes that directly connect diagonally for convenient left turns, eliminating the need to cross the road twice. Many intersections also have dedicated footrests for cyclists to use when parking. “Their road designs already take into account the habits and experiences of cyclists. That’s why even in the Netherlands, where it often gets windy and rainy, my colleagues still insist on commuting by bike,” said Wang Zhuo’er.