Shanghai goes lower carbon with a critical mass ride across the city

Posted on | April 21, 2011 | 3 Comments

Critical mass ride April 16th 9.15am xui jia hui park to cool docks, south bund.

Saturday saw some 300 riders take to the shanghai roads for the first Critical mass ride. Riders kick started earth week; riding for cleaner air in downtown shanghai.



The first critical mass ride on Saturday put shanghai on the map as a part of the global trend towards lower carbon transport society. Over 300 riders took part in the first critical mass ride. They came from downtown shanghai and from many of the top universities in shanghai. Everyone met to ride for clean air, to kick start an awareness of earth week and to do something for themselves and their city. Riding a bike in shanghai is a very cool way to get about downdown, yet for the majority it’s a challenge: as we see with many of the mega cities in china cycling has lost it’s appeal among the young due to low infrastructure support and poor perceptions associated with bikes.


While the Shanghai government continues to grow its mass urban transport systems providing easy, fast and connected public transport in and out of the city, cycling in the city seems to have fallen from the priority list. There are less and less connected bike pathways accompanied by a continual increase in cars and poor traffic management. This has resulted in making cycling hazardous and unhealthy from downtown traffic pollution. Yet from the turn out on Saturday to our critical mass ride and the energy associated with bike riding in the city, this could be all about to change. Cycling enthusiasm is on the rise and there is a hope that shanghai’s city planners will start to plan better for a sustainable and lower carbon transport system that includes cycling in the down town area. So, that for those numerous short rides around town, whether it’s a delivery service, a business on wheels, a ride to work, a meeting, picking up some small groceries, heading to a party, picking up your children from school or purely recreational, shanghai’s bike pathways need to keep their cyclists safe and healthy.


In 2008?the most popular reason for riding a bike in chinese cities, 54%, was for purely recreational reasons. Shanghai has to work hard to support this need.



Before our ride we asked shanghai residents about riding a bike in shanghaiHere’s what people told us.:


The answers to this question were divided into two extremes. A few people think that biking is Shanghai is cool. However, the general consensus about riding a bike in Shanghai seems to be a bit negative. Many people are concerned with safety when biking in Shanghai. They think it is not safe to ride a bike in Shanghai, because the roads are crowded but chaotic. The cars, motorcycles, and mopeds do not follow the traffic well, which leaves the people riding a bike very vulnerable. Also, in terms of health issues, people perceive that the air is not so clean, which make them think riding a bike in Shanghai might be economic but is definitely not a healthy option. One respondent told us that …


“It’s like playing a video game, waging a war, and risking one’s life”


We also asked riders about the air in shanghai, its clear that its not supportive to ride bikes, but people will do it anyway, because at the end of the day it should be a good thing both for their health and the health of the city…


According to the response, it is clear that people feel terrible about the air in Shanghai. Although people agree that the air in Shanghai is just as bad as that in other parts of China, people feel very uncomfortable breathing in Shanghai. Many people said breathing the air in Shanghai is like second-hand smoking, not just because so many people smoke on the streets, but also because it can cause serious health problems just as smoking is doomed to cause lung cancer.


Some interesting quotes:

“It’s suicidal. Every time I sat at the red light, I told myself that I was suicidal if I kept standing here and breathing.”

“My nose complains, and it bleeds!”

“We don’t have solutions. It’s normal to have bad air in big cities.”

“not having a lung” “way to die fast”



We also asked people what they need to ride a bike in the city. We found that safety and health were the overriding concerns


The majority told us that it is important to keep the bikes safe and people need locks to do so, especially in a city like Shanghai. Also, many people said they should wear a helmet, due to safety concerns, and facial masks, due to health concerns.


Some interesting quotes:

“No fear” “helmet & health insurance card”



So, what next for Bikes in Shanghai

Its clear we need better infrastructure to support a bike culture.


In Shanghai, 2009, there were about 12 million bikes. Over 70 percent of people living in Shanghai claimed to use a bike. The proportion of bikes as a method of transport was claimed to be over 30 percent among all means of transport. Several papers, including the later, have been written that have explored the integration of bikes into shanghai’s transport system – it seems as if there are various possibilities to support an integrated, safe and healthy biking culture in Shanghai.


On the ride we had the following teams:

People’s Bike


Giant bike club

Shanghai University of Engineering Science (SUES) bike club

East China University of Political Science and Law bike club

East China University bike club

Shanghai Institute of Finance and Trade bike club

East China Normal University bike club

Shanghai Jiaotong University bike club



Good to shanghai’s goal is to make sustainable living accessible, beneficial and desirable to everyday Chinese urban residents and to accelerate the move towards lower carbon society and sustainable living.


01CoolBike is one of four initiatives from Goodtochina that gets us to re-think the beauty of the bike as a healthy, non-polluting, practical and desirable urban transport option that can be integral to a sustainable urban transport system


3 Responses to “Shanghai goes lower carbon with a critical mass ride across the city”

  1. daigoume
    April 23rd, 2011 @ %I:%M %p

    nice post. thanks.

  2. Earthweek In Shanghai Begins With A Critical Mass Ride – Urban Times - Optimistic Forward-Thinking
    July 15th, 2011 @ %I:%M %p


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