Cars pushing Beijingers to abandon bike and drive to work

Throngs of cyclists jostling in the city’s bike lanes on their daily commute once earned Beijing the nickname the  bicycle kingdom.

But, as attitudes towards biking to work change, a generation of well-off commuters eagerly enjoying the benefits of their new-found economic clout  have left cyclists sucking on the exhaust of flashy Bmws.

In 2009, 1,500 cars were being added to the road in Beijing  daily – a far cry from 1949, when the capital had about  2,300 cars in total.

As the number of cars on the road increases, it creates a vicious circle, making it more difficult for cyclists and encouraging more to drive.

“The negative perception that bicycle lanes have gradually been taken over by motorized vehicles is one key reason that deters motorized commuters from bicycling,”  a recent survey of 850 Beijing residents on perception of  bike commutes,  said.

Researchers from Peking University found air pollution, safety and lack of road space were  the main reason people choose to avoid biking to work.

Questioning residents on social and environmental factors of how they commute,  they found inefficient lighting and potential bike theft were other reasons.

Despite those factors – many of the participants agreed biking was still more  practical than driving  to get to work. And a majority of Beijing’s working population live close enough to do so.

While more people are commuting from the city’s suburbs, the survey found 47.5% of the residents surveyed live within 5 km of their work.  They found 32.5% of those who choose to drive to work travel less than 5km.

“The rapid decline in [bicycling]  can be explained only partially by increasing commuting distance,” the study, Potential for Revival of the Bicycle in Beijing, said.

Younger and higher income participants were more likely to opt to drive, while gender and education were found to have little effect on the decision.

“Bicyclists and non-bicyclists can hardly be differentiated in this study in Beijing, suggesting that many non-bicyclists are potential candidates for the non-motorized mode,” the study said.

It was published online on August 17.

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