We are back in Lincoln now and the jet lag wasn’t too bad. I’ve managed to get out and ride every day since in our fair city. After the past ten months in Zhoukou the traffic here is predictably calmer, faster, and often clueless to the presence of non-motorized vehicles. It may take me a little while to fully re-adapt to traffic regulations after the free-for-all that is bicycling in China. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in the eighties and I remember it being difficult to not jay walk and to remember to plug parking meters upon re-entry. The culture shock then was much greater coming back than going. This experience has been completely different.
I’ve been checking out the John Dietrich, the Mopac, the Rock Island, the Jamaica North and the Homestead and everything looks the same as I left it, except that the Jamaica is now open. Yay! The Oak Lake trail north of the North Bottoms is closed for bridge demolition, which was going on as we detoured through the neighborhood. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel on gravel hills after ten months of flat land, but so far so good, and the minimum maintenance was surprisingly good, even with all the rain.
We brought Tag, a student friend, back with us for a visit and he’s been impressed with the quality of the trails here, as well as all the open space. We made an evening trip out to Roca for a little cross-cultural experience and riding along Salt Creek made him feel right at home. He told me what I’ve suspected all along which is that scooters are subsidized in China, likely a big reason so many have ditched their bikes in recent years. Steve saw the number of bike shops in the bike district along the river in Zhoukou drop by at least half from the first time he went over to teach.
Now even Mr. Li, owner and operator of the flagship Giant store where I bought my bike in Zhoukou, has to give floor space to scooters. When a halfway decent bike is three times the cost of a scooter, you have to be really committed to riding a bike not cave in to the no-effort aspect of scooter riding, which is also considered more “modern.” Especially when the only bikes most people have ridden are heavy and slow. Tag rides a reasonably good bike to interpreting school in Shanghai and he says the ride that takes him five minutes will cost someone on one of those bikes 15 minutes.
Our last morning in Beijing before going to the airport we made a pilgrimage to Natooke (flying banana) bike shop. The first shop in China to sell fixed gear bicycles and generally try to make cycling cool again, but they were closed until later in the day. We could have made the trip faster had we used bike shares, as the bus in traffic was that slow. Bicycles make all things easier when navigating a congested city. We saw many cyclists, so others must have come to the same conclusion.
I haven’t noticed more people on bikes here yet since I’ve been back, but let’s all work together on changing that. Lincoln is a great place to be a cyclist!