Car Sharing and Bike Riding in China

An alternative solution to the congested roads in China: car sharing. Over the last few years, "car sharing" become more and more popular among the Chinese. Their reasons are simple: to save on travelling and fuel costs.

Autor*in Sarah-Indra Jungblut, 06.02.11

“Riding a bike is tiring, public transportation is too slow, getting a taxi and keeping a car are too expensive; why not try car sharing – practical and cost-saving!”. For years, this has been a widely used slogan among car sharers.

Car Sharing as an Answer To Road Space Rationing

Car sharing’s growth in popularity is largely due to the road space rationing which occurred during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In order to keep the air pollution level low in the city (as was promised in the application for the Olympics Games), the government had to carry out “odd-even rationing” to limit the number of cars on the road.

People who wanted to drive to Beijing to watch the Games or to go to work came up with the idea to drive together (share a car) with another person who had the alternative car number plate ending on alternative days. Since then, car sharing has become more common among daily commuters.

Let’s Go to Work Together!

In bigger cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, it developed as an alternative way for daily commuting. Drivers look for neighbours who want to travel to a similar destination or the other way round.

People post notices looking for driver or travel partners in the neighbourhood and more and more online forums have been established to provide a platform for the idea such as:

During holidays, especially the Spring Festival, it becomes the main means of transportation for people as it avoids the hustle and bustle of long queues for train tickets or dealing with crowds. That’s how strangers become regular co-travellers.

Problems with ‘Black Taxi’

A congested alley in Beijing

Problems like the unlicensed operation of taxis (called ‘black taxis’) have emerged, meaning the government is still reluctant to legalise the activity of car sharing despite its popularity and advantages for the city.

Many argued that the government should continue to move this idea forward and not penalise people who charge passengers for fuel costs.

Personal safety is also a concern for the car-sharers and drivers. Recommendations pertaining to this issue have been put forward such as exchanging more information with each other and perhaps also signing a paper to insure both sides.

Improvement in Progress

Shanghai, a city that suffers from heavy traffic congestion, seeks to take the car sharing model used in Bremen, Germany during the World Expo 2010 as an example to ease traffic problems by setting up car rental companies offering services for non-car owners to drive and share with others.

It is expected that the interest of people to purchase cars would be lowered hence alleviating  congestion and environmental problems.

Keep the City’s Air Clean: Ride Your Bike

Bikes on road in Suzhou

Car sharing seems to be the best alternative for those who travel rather long distances to work daily. For those living within the city, riding bikes is doubtlessly the best solution. Beijing was once the biggest bike city but the cycles have been largely replaced by cars as motor vehicles became ever-cheaper over the last decade. 

These days, there is somewhat of a bike-riding ‘revival’ in Beijing it sees a ‘revival’ and an  increase in bike numbers is easily witnessable. Instead of taking public transportation, some citizens have already turned to riding bikes to work, to shop and to pick up the children.

Problems bikers in Beijing face now include a lack of properly-managed bicycle parking lots and the occupancy of bike routes by cars.

If the government is determined to make the country a ‘greener’ place, more user-friendly facilities ought to be built for the green supporters.

Author: Doris Pui-ying Lee/ RESET editorial

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