Monday, October 18, 2010

Beijing / Shanghai : Transportation options

All over China there is new prosperity. Everywhere we went we could see buildings under construction. The rich are getting richer. I noticed cars like you would see in North America; Audi, VW, Buick, Toyota, RangeRover, Cayenne and many models of SUV's. At the lower end of the scale you have the poor struggling to survive. They work long hours doing menial jobs. Owning a car is just a dream as they trudge their way to work on their bicycles or electric scooters

(downtown Shanghai)

While we treat Scooters (and motorcyles) as recreational toys they are only considered as transportation .



It is just a vehicle for getting around, to go shopping or to commute to work while we go for a ride to clear our senses and to enjoy the smells of nature and freedom.


Electric/Gas scooters and bicycles have their own dedicated lanes separated from the rest of vehicular traffic but that is not to say that they cannot share the road with cars either. From my observations, scooter lanes are not directional. Even on one-way streets, scooters can travel in any direction and ignore all traffic signals.


You are allowed to carry anything on a scooter, even live chickens . This neighbourhood metal fabrication shop uses a tricyle for delivery

(pedal powered metal delivery tricycle)

you can also deliver noodles with your bicycle


With these larger gas powered tricycles you can also display your produce for sale


In the background you see these men scrounging the restaurant waste for food to take home on their tricycle


KFC: Kentucky Fried Chicken has a large presence here in China with outlets everywhere. Even they have a fleet of bicycle delivery vehicles


I noticed many of these motorcyle tricyles, some are used as taxis, while others are used for family transportation


It is not unusual to see them riding on sidewalks. They honk for pedestrians to get out of their way. It seems that scooters have the right of way everywhere


here is a more enclosed motorcyle trike, most are used as taxis


I only saw one of these . . .

(Motorcyle trike with metal 4 door body, with motorcyle handlebars)

There were not many actual motorcyles

(looks like a Honda Nighhawk)

the following looks like an 80's era Suzuki GS series. I did not notice any motorcyles over 125cc


(another 125cc something or other)


If I had to make an educated guess based upon what I noticed, I would say that electric scooters outnumber gas powered 4-stroke 4 out of 5. The land is relatively flat and most travel is within the city. There was not a 2-stroke scooter to be seen. All the smog is created by the manufacturing sector and the thousands of diesel powered trucks and tour buses.

All of these 125cc Chinese Motorcycles appear to have

tachometers as standard equipment

No one wears any protective gear except it is compulsory for motorcycle riders


The Police ride the largest bikes.

(Yamaha 250cc Police bike)


(Honda 250cc Police bike)

(Shanghai Police in action)


  1. See: if the Chinese had had the wit to expand their economy through illegal mortgage transactions and unlimited, unsecured credit they too could be riding around in Ford F150 trucks with ridiculous repayment schedules. Instead they are beavering away on their fully equipped Quang-Jis learning how to finish off polishing our clocks.
    Doesn't the future look bright in the West?

  2. thanks for the photos. I was in China for a month a few years ago. Shanghai was my favorite city in China.

    internet cafes charging for time are very common in asia/europe. free internet is a very north america thing in my experience.

    I went with a nearly empty suitcase and bought lots of new clothes. The fakes are quite good with even the tags being faked. They hold up ok for the price, but wear quickly in a western washer/dryer.

  3. Interesting selection of vehicles. What are "electric scooters"? The only ones that I've ever seen around here are the type that you stand on.


  4. Very informative and interesting. Because everyone ignores traffic lights and laws I wonder what they do when there's an accident? No need for insurance I guess. And how do the police on motorcycles enforce anything? Very interesting...

  5. Dear Bobskoot:

    Thank you for taking the time and trouble to collect and categorize all of these photographs. Your effort has given all of us one of the best three-dimensional perspectives of transportation in china, with an emphasis on the two and three-wheeled variety.

    I am amazed that no one is wearing a helmet. I am also amazed at the numbers of well-dressed multiple riders crammed onto scooters. The accidents that do occur must be spectacular for road rash and head injuries.

    I have to remind myself that you describe photos from the top. I read the line about the fleet of Kentucky Fried Chicken Trikes, which was under a picture of trikes at a garbage dump. It still made perfect sense to me.

    If the Chinese are now eating KFC with reckless abandon, may we expect to hugely fat Asians barely able to get their bloated asses on their machines? That's how it works in the US.

    I cannot imagine anyone eating KFC if they have the opportunity to eat world-class Chinese cuisine every day. I would be in heaven. What did you do for drinking water? Bottled?

    The metal-enclosed three wheeler was being sold in Delaware for awhile. I meant to go down to see one.

    Well done Bobskoot. Let's see the next one.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  6. Nice write up and photo series.
    lol - I thought of Ron's GS as soon as I saw that 125. Fun to see all the different bikes/scooters/etc.

    Anxiously awaiting the next post!

  7. Well I have to say that I think scooters should have the right of way everywhere and anywhere, but am somewhat biased in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs and commentary.
    I actually referred to your commentary a post back or so to the accounting class I am teaching right now about the markets you visited and your suspicions about the sale of stolen goods. What a terrible example of inadequate internal controls over inventories.
    It sounds like you had an eye opening experience about many aspects of life in China. I have enjoyed reading about it. It seems that even in a communist country, capitalism is thriving in a very basic form.
    Glad you are safely back home.

  8. Great insight and back up photos. I personally would love to see more people and families on scooters down here in the South. Give people better perspective from their gas-guzzling SUV's, driving and talking on the phone, while their kids watch DVD's in the back seat...and no one is paying attention to anything else on the road knowing they are big and won't be hurt if an altercation occurs.

  9. I'm surprised that you're surprised. Outside of Norh America and Europe everybody uses scooters, 125cc bikes and buses.

    In Iran, e.g., bikes bigger than 250cc are banned.

  10. Hi Bob,

    I'm surprised too....3 on a bike or scooter is all quite normal even 5 on a bike/scooter is not uncommon,I must say though the two best ones I've seen is 2 guys on a scooter crawling along balancing 25 foot lengths of metal bar (re-bar)

    The other was 3 guys, 2 sitting the wrong way round facing backwards, struggling to keep hold of a huge 40 inch standard box type TV lol....7 on a scooter/bike though is the most I've ever seen, if babies count!!



  11. Group Reply:

    having observed driving habits in China during our short stay, I must say that this article is very accurate

    now I know why horns were invented. You have to unlearned everything you have been taught and just use your horn and trottle.

    The most important thing to remember is that your horn is your friend. just Honk and GO, he who is first has the "right of way".

    If someone cuts you off by going in front of you, and you hit him, you are in the wrong as you "failed to yield".

  12. Bobskoot

    kinda late for this round but maybe you'll be returning to China someday....these guys somehow managed to get some sidecaring done while doing the tourist thing:



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