A Beginner’s Guide to Riding in Shanghai

My name is Adam, and I started biking in Shanghai this week.  I’ve taken my bike through countries, provinces, states, and even over to your mom’s house, so listen to what I have to say.

Yo, listen up !

The Traffic

Pay attention to traffic flow, not lights – Shanghai road dwellers have all the information of the road at their finger tips, but no one seems to care about it.  Traffic lights come with a countdown on both green and red lights to help with flow and congestion, but with eagerly waiting drivers see 5 seconds of their red light left it seems to translate into a nonchalant roll into the intersection to cock block those trying to squeeze the last few seconds out of the dying green light.  To avoid the thrones of scooter exhaust and grandmas on single speeds, start rolling forward with the front of the pack as the red counts down – it feels a kin to walking on to a subway track but shaves minutes off the commute, and has saved me the embarrassment of being in the back of the pack with a 200 year old man eating boadze on an electric wheelchair.

The Road

Gotta look out for number one – In most of the North America cities I’ve graced with my two wheels, roads are at most shared between street cars, people cars, bicycles, and maybe the occasional hot chick on a Vespa.  On any given day in Shanghai the road can be carrying cars, e-bikes, bicycles, trikes, rickshaws, scooters, over loaded trailers, food carts, people with brooms and any other random assortment of obstacles you can think of.  Oh and multiply that by 2 because any of them could be travelling with you, or coming right at you.  Unfortunately in post apocalyptic traffic conditions like this, all manners have to be put aside and you need to plow through the best you can.  I’ve never thought to forcefully change the direction of another human on a bike before, but here it’s the only way you can get people to realize you’re trying to get by.  Imagine there has been a terrible war and the only instant Mojito mix is on the other side of town and you’re surrounded by mint loving zombies as you race on your bike to get it before they do.  Thats what the bike lanes here are like.

The Cars

Cars aren’t worth shit – Ghandi once said that if you bring the biggest gang of friends to the party you get to run the show, and his golden rule applies here.  Cars are crippled by the thrones of other vehicles on the road and lose the majority of pissing matches they try to engage in (and believe me they try). I’ve never seen so many people spit, curse, punch, hadouken, or commit other more creative hate crimes  towards a method of transportation. If you give right of way to car around here, your bike get stamped with a big scarlet C and no one will ever look at you the same again.

The Sounds

Honking isn’t always a bad thing – Where I grew up honking was reserved for a polite way to say fuck you, or an impolite way to tell a girl you’d like to rearrange her guts.  The translation seems to be a little different here because everyone honks like they’re getting a paycheck from the Hyundai Horn Corporation.  At first I’d let each honk rattle my bucky, taking it personally as if I had committed an ignorant infraction. I’ve come to learn that it’s really just people’s way of saying “Yo what’s up, this country is louder than a chainsaw orchestra, so I’m just honking to let you know I’m in your vicinity.” Even Stevie Wonder would be safe here with the excelled horn etiquette, and it definitely cuts down on the blind spot collisions.

Peace out !

  • Sebastianfrith

    re-arrange her guts! ha! nice one…

  • Cfleetwood

    Its great to stumble across this golden nugget of Shanghai knowledge!
    Im coming to over from Toronto next week for my first time and plan to do a bunch of riding.
    Besides riding the streets whats the best way to meet other cyclists?
    I’ll be located close to century park

  • http://www.polarbearsoul.com Tyler Bowa

    You can meet up for a group ride, or swing by the local fixed gear community shop – the address will be posted this week !