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“Brave” expat cyclist blocks car using Beijing cycle lane in one-man demonstration

Pictures of rider’s stance go viral on Chinese social network Weibo

Social media users in China have applauded a “brave” foreign cyclist who blocked a car being driven on a segregated bike lane in capital city Beijing. 

Pictures of the cyclist engaged in his protest were posted to Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, on Saturday, reports the South China Morning Post.

Since then, they have gone viral, with the one above being shared more nearly 44,000 times.

The unknown cyclist, assumed to be an expatriate worker, is seen in the series of pictures standing in front of the black saloon car, the driver of which seemed to be trying to use it to beat one of the city’s notorious traffic jams.

The Weibo user who posted the photographs said: “Today on Yaojiayuan Road I saw this scene: a foreigner insisted on stopping cars in the bike lane from passing! Resolute attitude, I am very touched!”

Others praised the cyclist, with one saying:  “I hope more Chinese learn from this brave expat to stand out and say no to bad habits.”

One commenter expressed admiration for the cyclist, but sympathy too for the driver, saying: “The brave foreigner deserves our respect [for standing up to the bike lane driver], but the traffic on the road is to blame for the driver’s violation.”

Another queried what would have happened had the cyclist been Chinese, however, reflecting that “if it were not a laowai [foreigner], I bet he/she who stands in front of the car would be beaten up.”

Shannon Bufton, who co-founded Beijing bike advocacy group Smarter Than Car, told the South China Morning Post: “Cars are all over the bike lanes in Beijing,” adding that the city “is overrun by cars.”

While he acknowledged that some of the city’s drivers exhibited “pretty horrible” behaviour, he said “at least there’s bike lanes in the first place.”

The newspaper says that’s a common problem facing bike riders in Beijing, which now has more than 5 million cars, with ownership continuing to grow at a frenetic pace alongside China’s burgeoning economy.

Across China, more private cars were added to the country’s vehicle population in 2012 than there were in total in 1999, according to a Bloomberg report from January last year.

In 2013, it became the first country to see sales of all types of vehicles exceed 20 million, up 14 per cent on 2012.

Motoring has become a political issue, however, with many blaming the rise in vehicle ownership for smog and air pollution, as well as gridlock.

Since 2011, Beijing’s city government has limited the number of new vehicle registrations through a lottery system.

In August 2013, some 1.6 million applications were made for just 20,000 licence plates available that month – meaning the odds against securing one were 80 to 1.

In response, city authorities have attempted to encourage people back onto bikes through introducing a bike-share scheme as well as cycle lanes.

However, uptake of the former has reportedly been very disappointing compared to other Chinese cities, while as this story highlights, encroachment of motorists on the latter remains a major problem.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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