Guangzhou Bicycle Culture

I was amazed about the bicycle culture in Guangzhou, Gunagdong, China. When moving through the city, one gradient becomes apparent soon: the occurence of bicycles and their use in providing everyday amenities (mobility, transport and other services) is inversely correlated to the motorization of the urban fabric. Cars rule the streetlife more and more in China but the speed of takeover is not the same everywhere. In Shenzhen for example, cars are the only force on the road (as pedestrian you better watch out and run!). However there seems to be a different understanding persisting in the streets of Guangzhou, where people are walking in the middle of the street in the evening and sidewalks are occupied by street vendors and bicycle servicemen.
Also when visiting the older parts of town it is interesting to see how cars penetrate the streets which havent been designed for cars, and are thus finding their limits in small, narrow old streets where only pedestrians and bicycles can access. Within such neighbourhoods existing on the scale of a mini-blocka type of urban life unfolds suddenly to the visitor, a very urban and humanely loud and busy streetlife which is (to my experience) unknown to Europe and more and more diminished in China as well. Spontaneous street markets on tricycles, groups of women chatting in the street, kids and grandmas walking puppies in the road and grandpas hanging out in their chairs on the street. Such qualities I believe are worth extracting from life in the old urban fabric and can be brought into the design of small subunits of urban developments.

I am aware but wont discuss here the fact that such urban life is also tied to a certain income level and related issues of social disparity in modern China. For sure this is a cumulative effect of socio-economic factors and very difficult to address, but social upgrade of low-income classes is not prevented by the use of bicycles and the life in the old urban fabric. It may on the other hand be a viable strategy for urban development to develop unique urban qualities such as community life and streetlife - which are to a greater extent found within a dense and non-motorly mobilized urban fabric on a human scale - for the benefit of the residents.

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