Plummeting Bike Use in Beijing, and the Need for a Global Strategy

165424224_8cce727f77.jpgCan this trend be reversed in Beijing? (Photo: crypt K. via Flickr)

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Eco Velo has a post about the precipitous decline in bicycling in Beijing:

According to a recent article published by Agence France-Presse
(AFP), increasing affluence in China has caused the rate of bicycle ridership in Beijing to drop from a high of 80 percent in the 1980s to less than 20 percent today. Though 20 percent is still very high by U.S. standards, the drop is nothing short of stunning. The results of this dramatic increase in driving are predictable, with massive traffic jams and intense smog now the norm.

Commenter Lovely Bicycle adds this thought:

This just goes to show that when bicycle use is high from necessity alone, it is not a stable situation. Only when the *status* of the bicycle in society changes, will its future be guaranteed.

Which brings us back to the idea we wrote about earlier in the week. How is it that we can achieve that perceived increase in status for bicycling here in the United States — and around the world? Or is that even the best route to increasing mode share?

The situation in Beijing shows just how high the stakes are on a global scale, and how diffuse and localized the solutions will need to be. How can we use the tools we have to create those solutions?

As I write this, I am sitting in the Personal Democracy Forum 2010 conference. Most of the people here are struggling with these same types of questions, no matter their political persuasion or the cause they want to advance. I hope to share some of the strategies I’m hearing about with all of you over the next couple of weeks.

More from around the network: Car Free With Kids on the uncommon phenomenon of common courtesy. Cap’n Transit on the priorities of transit managers. And American Dirt on the difference between a neighborhood and a subdivision (is it real?).