I spend a lot of time advocating for and worrying about the future of cycling in Seattle. Despite the gradually-improving bike infrastructure here, and the growing adoption of cycling as a way of life, we’re still a car-centric city where riders are largely unseen by drivers and bike facilities are a funding afterthought.
On a recent tour through Yunnan province in China, I saw what cycling looks like as a way of life. Cycling doesn’t belong to hipsters or exercise fanatics. Everyone does it, and it’s so deeply integrated into every aspect of society that most people don’t give it a second thought.
People use their bikes — often bikes so old they’d be given away for free on Craigslist here — to carry merchandise, trash, construction materials, supplies, groceries, and other people.
Everywhere, merchants setup shop in expansive outdoor markets, and bikes are their transportation and cargo vehicles.
In Kunming, whose urban population is double that of Seattle yet still only moderately-large by China standards, bikes are ubiquitous as commuter vehicles, and the most logical way to transport materials within and between businesses and public places.
Kunming has its own Greenlake Park (翠湖公园). But you won’t see rollerbladers and double-wide strollers there. You’ll see people doing Tai-Chi, and bikes of all flavors.