Recently I took a 28 km trip, on bike.
I’m usually willing to take my bike for a short trip. I know for some of you, the distance I took may sound like nothing. However, it is more than enough to give everyone an impression of how friendly Changsha is to biking.
So let’s get straight into the topic.
Changsha is not designed for bikes.
I’m sure that the government wants the city to be “car-centric”, and the city is sort of “car-centric” not too long ago. I mean, the city was designed to be “car-centric”, but people at that time were too poor to own a car, so they used bikes instead, which made the city look “bike-centric”. Then, when people get rich, they begin to own cars, which has caused a lot of problems, so the city is now balancing its developing strategy, including building public transport, and making the city more bike-friendly.
So you get a basic idea of Changsha’s original design ideology. Today Changsha looks like a fusion of American “car-centric” cities and Western European “human-centric” cities: it has wide, straight, and noisy roads originally designed for cars and little space for bikes, newly built roads is likely to have biking lane, but you won’t find them on old roads in city center.
Average road quality is good, but since the city is building its public transport, many roads are currently under construction, these roads are dangerous and badly maintained, traffic on them is also chaotic.
Most roads don’t have a biking lane, so you need to share your route with the car flow. Now on many roads, you can see these blue arrows, which stand for biking lanes. These are not actual biking lanes, however, it’s better than nothing.
In most situations, the roads are okay and fit for biking. You can take the sidewalk if it’s too dangerous to share the road with cars.
Parking a bike here is not that easy, be careful of thieves, so make sure your lock is effective and durable enough to prevent it from being stolen.
Most drivers will pay attention to you if you’re riding a bike, however, you still need to keep an eye on the traffic to make sure you won’t be hurt by a stupid driver.
It always happens that there are a bunch of cars parking on the side of the road which blocks the path for bikes. Sometimes it’s the road designer’s fault, but in most situations, the driver is to blame, pretty annoying.
Changsha’s climate is terrible, most time in the year it’s just anything but comfortable. Summer here is wet and drastically hot, which makes people sweaty, sometimes even causing heatstroke. Winter is kind of mild, but still too cold for biking. There’s a joke among local people that says there are only two seasons in Changsha, Summer and Winter. Comfy weather in spring and autumn has become increasingly uncommon in recent years, probably due to climate change.
So the weather is not likely comfortable here in Changsha.
I don’t think Changsha is currently bike-friendly. The infrastructure here is not quite ideal, some drivers are not so friendly, and the climate here is also terrible. The city is making its effort to improve itself, wanting to be bike-friendly, and ultimately, human-friendly. But what has been done is just not enough.
Despite these “not enough” works, I am happy to see Chinese cities changing for the better throughout all these years, and I hope our city to be even better, even happier.