It should not surprise anyone, thus, to find not just local residents but foreign tourists travelling on their bicycles from one Olympic stop to another. This step is likely to benefit Beijing residents who have given up using bikes lately. Beijing has a population of nearly 17.5 million, as per 2007 statistics. According to a report, the pollution-level around Olympic venues could be five times worse than the level considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).
To counter pollution and congestion, the government has ordered its officials and Beijing residents use public transport for the sake of a greener Olympics.
A majority of the locals have complied with the directive to pedal-their-way to their workplaces. According to available reports, the Government has ordered the closure of 40 factories in the eastern port city of Tianjin to minimize air-pollution at places close to Beijing during the Olympic Games. In the early 1990s, people used bikes to reach their workplaces. Broad bike lanes then would be full of bicycles, recalled the 70-year-old Wang.
"With industrialization taking place and people are getting more income, they have started spending money on buying cars and other automobiles for their convenience. But such inclination is at the cost of their health," Wan warns. Eight years ago, nearly 80 per cent of the people used bicycles in urban areas. Now, there are over three million fuel-driven vehicles on the Beijing's roads.
The local government has banned motorbikes on Beijing roads due to its adverse effect on public health and on riding habits. Appreciating the government's move to promote bike rides, Li Bingxin, the Division chief of the All China Journalist Association, said the need of the hour was for everyone to understand his or her responsibility to make the environment clean and pollution-free.
While admitting that he had given up riding bicycle a few years ago, Li said he would take up the habit again soon. To get his body in shape, not to speak of parking space. He said that he had noticed that after leaving a bicycle ride for using cars, most people d complained of high blood pressure, liver and overweight problems. Several bicycle companies are also planning to introduce low-rental schemes for locals and foreign visitors to promote riding bicycles during the Olympics.
There are a number of bicycle companies like Forever, Jiant, Gama, Finex, Flyin and others that have introduced new bike models in the market.
One can buy a good bike for between 300 Yuan to 700 Yuan (43.83 to 102.28 dollars). Besides one can get one on rent for a year. It may cost anywhere between 20 Yuan (about three dollars) for a day or 100 Yuan (14.61 dollars) for a Year after depositing 400 Yuan (48.44 dollars) as security.
Over a million bicycles would be required during the Beijing Olympics.
For the moment the similarities between urban and rural areas in China and India in so far as commuting is concerned, can't be ignored. The Olympics may usher in a welcoming change. By Ravinder Singh Robin