My daily bike commute.
The highlight of every weekday is my bicycle commute. Inside our temporary apartment, it’s just an apartment. Inside work, it feels like any office. But the street is a different beast. I’m in China again.
The ride is around 2 miles (3.2km) each way. So every work week, I bike at least 20 miles (32km). At the end of my contract here, I will have commuted 480 miles (773km) on bike.
I only ride through one neighborhood, but there are slight variations along the way. Massive boulevards and apartment towers change to tree-lined streets and older brick buildings. Small shops transition into a shopping district and back again. Traffic seems to build up in the same stretches, especially near work. I pass by old ladies who nearly get hit by cars, an intersection that seems to be a popular place to buy cheap breakfast foods, and dusty construction sites.
I feel connected to the city on bike. And people don’t stare at me as much. Young and old ride bikes of varying levels of falling-apartness. My bike is in the middle: rusted but unbroken. Some bikes clatter, others scrape, some sound like geese in heat. Riders continually maneuver around each other, dodging cars, other bikes, pedestrians, and stuff in the road. Everybody goes on red, except cars. Handlebar-mounted bells are dinged. Horns are beeped. Brakes shriek. The non-electric motorbikes spew smelly exhaust right in your face and dusts invades any exposed orifice.
I feel happy when I pull into the work parking lot. And I feel the same when I leave. The ride home is a different route. At night, the traffic is thinner. I pass by the Iranian and U.S. consulates, some nightclubs, and a dark area of mystery buildings before hitting a major street. From there, I ride along detoured bike lanes, avoiding cars and paying careful attention when I run red lights. I pump it on the way home, and I always arrive a little sweaty.
The image of my bike route come from one of the coolest maps I’ve seen of the city: http://shanghai.edushi.com/. Shanghai is recreated in a painstakenly illustrated Sim City style. Plus, they have a bunch of the other major Chinese cities drawn too. Those can be found in this listing.