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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 December, 2003, 14:23 GMT
Shanghai ends reign of the bicycle
By Tim Luard
BBC News Online

Succumbing at last to the worldwide love affair with the car, China - of all places - is officially turning up its nose at the humble bicycle.

Its biggest city, Shanghai, plans to ban bikes from all major roads next year to ease congestion, state-run newspapers said on Tuesday.

Cyclists in Shanghai
It's not just the weather Shanghai cyclists now have to contend with
Police will also raise fines tenfold for such cycling infractions as running red lights, Shanghai Daily reported.

Once hailed as the perfect form of proletarian transport, the bicycle used to reign supreme in China as undisputed king of the road.

In fact it was the only way most people had of getting to work.

Each morning, swarms of blue-coated cyclists would pour down special cycle lanes or often fill entire roads, making it hard for the occasional goods lorry or communist party limousine to pass.

Growing wealth

Shanghai was a major centre of the world's biggest bicycle industry and home to many of the earliest factories turning out such brands as Flying Pigeon, Phoenix and Forever.

In recent years, though, Shanghai has developed into a centre of China's new car industry and growing affluence has created a surge in private car ownership.

Bicycle transport in China
The bike's pivotal role is under threat
The number of private cars in Shanghai is expected to top 200,000 by the end of this year.

But while bikes may not be considered cool by the new middle classes, there are still a lot of them about.

Shanghai's urban population of some 20 million own some 9 million bicycles - and the number continues to grow by 1 million per year.

A lot of people are angry at the new rules, saying it is the rising number of cars that are the problem rather than the bikes.

"The way things are now, with cars, bikes and pedestrians all competing desperately for space, it's complete chaos," one resident told BBC News Online.

"But it is very sad that bicycles are the ones that have to go and Shanghai is now becoming a place just for cars, " she added.

Shanghai has in fact taken greater steps than other cities like Beijing to limit the numbers of cars on its streets. It has already raised registration fees and restricted access to the city centre.

Nevertheless, police officials blame bicycles for causing traffic problems by ignoring traffic lights and occupying vehicle lanes.

One Shanghai cyclist contacted by BBC News Online predicted that the new rules might be similarly ignored.

"At the moment on roads where you are not allowed to cycle you simply go up on the pavement and cycle there."


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