Shanghai papers reported this week that the city plans to ban bicycles from all major roads next year, clearing space for private vehicles to ease the city’s mounting congestion. Police will also raise fines tenfold for such cycling infractions as running red lights. Despite previous restrictions on bicycle use in the city, the number of new cycles grew by 1 million this year.
Shanghai has 9 million cyclists, many of whom will be left without viable alternative options once the ban is implemented. Bicycles are still the dominant form of transportation across China, where most people make less than $1,000 per year.
Shanghai opened some of China’s earliest bicycle factories and has since produced such brands as Flying Pigeon, Phoenix and Forever. China’s bicycle industry directly employs over 150,000 people and generates over $1 billion a year in foreign exchange earnings.
As the automobile industry has grown over the last decade, however, so has the emphasis on clearing road space for cars in Chinese cities, particularly those with high levels of automobile manufacturing. In Shanghai, the auto industry accounts for 20% of the gross regional product.
“Bicycles are an environmentally friendly means of transportation that should not be banned,” the Zhao Guotong, an official of the Shanghai Economic Commission, told the Shanghai Daily. “[Shanghai should instead] take firm control of the increasing numbers of private cars.”
While Shanghai has implemented some restrictions on car use and vehicle ownership, the number of vehicles in the city has doubled in just four years. Observers predict the number of cars on Shanghai’s streets will surpass 200,000 by the end of this year.