A new bike sharing program has been set up in Shanghai’s former French Concession by Xuhui District’s Tourism Bureau just in time for the Expo, with bicycles and infrastructure provided by Shanghai’s own Forever bicycle company. Unlike other such systems already existing around Shanghai (such as in Minhang District, Baoshan, Pudong and Hangzhou) it’s apparently aimed at tourists rather than residents. The system supposedly has under 200 bicycles and 7 bike rental points which operate 24 hours a day, and the bikes are tagged with RFIDs so they can be tracked. However, there are only 2 locations where you can buy the cards needed to use the bikes, and then only during business hours, and there is no signage or information whatsoever at the rental points about how to use the system or where you need to go to start using the system. At the above rental point on Wukang Lu, even though one of the administration locations is mere steps away, no signage in chinese or english indicated that. It is a truly mysterious system. Anyways, 300rmb (c. CAD$50) deposit is required plus minimum 100rmb loaded onto card, and then it’s 2rmb (CAD 0.30) for the first hour of a rental and 4rmb for each hour after that, and you can get the card at 393 A Wukang Lu (inside Xuhui Tourist Information Center) or 1068 ZhaoJiaBang Lu or check out the official website (chinese only).
Despite dramatic decreases in the number of cyclists in Chinese cities over the past 15 to 20 years, transport of goods and products, informal collection of recycling, deliveries and use of bicycles for retail and selling is still very common.
I’ve uploaded a photo gallery (Flickr set) of some of this activity easily seen in Shanghai. While Shanghai is in many other ways a very modern and advanced city, the continuing use of bicycles for so many purposes seems directly related to the presence of so many people willing (or forced) to work for extremely low fees, for which the bicycle remains by far the cheapest and indeed the only affordable means of transportation. Especially over short delivery distances, it would seem to many Chinese almost wasteful to use a truck.
One of the few official agencies still using bicycles is China Post, whose beautiful green delivery bicycles (complete with panniers) can frequently be seen parked in front of buildings.
Tonto sent these bike lane examples from Paris in as a suggestion for ways to improve the way we deal with bike lanes in Toronto (this was part of his comment in response to the last post A Bike Lane Disappears… ). As he says “One solution however, to properly demarcating bike lanes, can be found in Paris. Here are some shots of possible divisions between vehicular and bicycle areas. Some work would need to be done to prevent snowplows from tearing off the strips, but I am sure there are ways around that.”
The bike lane along Davenport between Ossington and Dufferin has essentially been disappeared as a result of infrastructural work. It was bad enough while the construction was going on, but the end result has essentially been an effacement of the diamond lane markings in places, and the complete ruination of the asphalt surface of the lane in others. A recent Spacing Wire post about construction ruining existing bike lanes (see here) was pertinent as we near the frenetic end of the roadworks season.
However, I’m loath to completely blame city services or the contractors for the results – the Davenport example was obviously a quite serious replacement of a water main or some other essential infrastructure beneath the street – it’s only a shame it happened less than a year after a large part of Davenport east of Dufferin was resurfaced. Additionally, placing services anywhere else would still lead to disruption – if they were placed closer to the middle of the road, the bike lane surface wouldn’t be ruined during infrastructural work, but vehicular traffic would no doubt be diverted over the bike lane during the work itself. At any rate, there probably already is an infrastructural service under the middle of the road – in fact these days there are so many services under roads it really is a question whether it would be possible to locate them in a way that could reduce impact on bike lanes.
What is a shame is that in places the relatively fresh bike lane markings were right along the trench they dug – will they be repainting the bike lane? It hasn’t been done yet. In other places the trench is right down the middle of the bike lane and is terribly bumpy – so bumpy in fact that I’m forced to ride out in the vehicular lane. I know my cycling activist friends hate when I say it, but when I’m out there in the vehicular lane, it actually feels like I am where I belong. Call it idiocy, call it a desire for the thrills of mixed traffic, but I can’t help what I feel. That doesn’t stop me from being upset about the state of the bike lanes though.
What added insult to injury was that construction affected the bike lanes all the way to Bathurst – despite minimal trench work east of Ossington – pylons and signs were placed in the bike lanes in what seemed an unnecessary way.
To me this highlights two inherent weaknesses in the way we implement bike lanes. First, simply painting bike lane markings is an invitation for them to be effaced – by weather, construction, dirt. Second, bike lanes sharing the asphalt surface with the vehicular surface (with no barrier or curb between them) is an invitation for the bike lane to be used by everyone and everything – construction crews use them for storing their vehicles and crap – taxis use them to pick up and deposit passengers – cars stand in them when they’re being the pricks that they are – delivery trucks use them as a handy place to stop without interfering with vehicular traffic – pedestrians stand in them when they’re trying to cross the road. Short of stationing a police unit on every corner of the city, enforcing the sanctity of bike lanes seems hopeless.
However, suggesting more off-road routes almost ensures that they will not be plowed and maintained in winter, and as a winter rider that is an unacceptable compromise to me.
Not that I take cabs very often, but I happened to be in one today and noticed these cute little stickers on the inside of the rear door windows. Getting doored by passengers getting out of cabs is a drag – especially since it can easily happen on both sides of the taxi because cabs so often discharge passengers quite a ways off the curb. So the next time you take a cab, remember to watch for a bike when you’re getting in and out.
But why are you reading this? You should be watching the World Cup.
I was recently in Vancouver and noticed several fine examples of interesting approaches to bicycle lanes. I think it’s high time Toronto started experimenting a little more with alternate approaches. The only caveat to that being that many of Vancouver’s main streets are quite wide, and downtown are often one-way, so they tend to have more room to play with.
My favourites were the red/umber asphalt surfaced bicycle lane (similar to the colour used on British cycle and bus-only lanes), and the location of a separate “diamond” bicycle lane on the non-curb side of the bus/taxi “diamond” lane – an innovation any cyclist using the Bay Street “diamond” lane would appreciate, after all why should cyclists have to share their lane with some of the largest vehicles on the road (that constantly stop) and the craziest drivers (who also frequently stop)?
I am pleased to report that the ringless bike posts along Dundas Street West east of Keele that I described last week have been re-ringed (well, a lonely two are still ringless, but it’s an improvement). It’s good to know that the City’s services are capable of working this fast when they’ve been made aware.
All credit should go to Matt Blackett over at the spacing wire who saw fit to give the orignial incident widespread exposure (see here) and then Dylan Reid who followed up with contact information to get the problem fixed (see here).
By the way, the cafe opposite McBride’s Motorbike shop I mentioned in the original post is called “Cool Hand of the Girl”. Give it a try. The Agora cafe a few blocks west of Keele is also a good bet.
There’s a whole stretch of Dundas Street West, east of Keele Street, where all the Bicycle posts have lost their rings. It’s quite curious. Have they been stolen? Is it vandalism? Is there an official reason behind it? With summer fast approaching and fairweather cyclists snapping up all the available lock-up space, I don’t like to see unusable bike posts.
And here we have the ultimate combination – the ringless bike post next to the cut off stump of a poor little failed street tree. Toronto’s uplifting streetscape in the flesh!
FYI – there’s a cool new coffee shop with excellent fair trade organic coffee right around here – just across the street from McBride’s motorcycle shop (before you grimace, let me tell you it was $1.50 and was a great cup of coffee – organic milk and cream as well). As a matter of fact, the whole area’s hopping these days. Having grown up in the Junction, I’m pretty happy with the way things are going.
While you’re in the area check out Pandemonium, a great used book shop at Keele and Dundas – or if you can make it further west, the refined The Book Exchange stocks only very good condition used books – but don’t go by their website, it’s the pits.
Cycling lanes and routes don’t always work out the way people hoped they would. And sometimes they’re just completely misguided. The BBC asked people to send in pictures of bizarre bike lanes (see here), and here’s some of the results (props to Tonto for the link).
From the British Midlands, the Warrington Cycle Campaign (who have a great feature of bicycle lane cock-ups called Facility of the Month) has an interesting amateur report on “The Effect of Cycle Lanes on Cyclists’ Road Space” showing how a 1.5m wide cycle lane actually reduces the amount of road-space available to cyclists. Here’s some of the photo comparisons from that report.