This blog post is part of a 2-day series. We invite you to check part one.
Could Chinese cities develop more sustainable mobilities? Today we explore China’s biking renaissance and multi-modal integration.
Trend 4 – Biking Renaissance
The past two decades have seen the decline of biking and pedestrian infrastructure in many Chines cities, but in 2013 Chinese cities may regain the momentum of moving people on bikes. In September 2012, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development released policy to promote biking and pedestrian systems in cities. This announcement also launched a 45-percent target to be reached in cities by 2015 for biking and walking.
The rapid scaling-up of bikeshare in China and a new “greenway” project in Guangdong points to this as a real possibility. Over the past five years, bikeshare systems have exploded in growth nationwide, fueled by the Hangzhou’s successful system launched in 2008. Today, over 60 Chinese cities have public bike sharing programs and China has more bikes shared than the rest of world combined. Wuhan and Hangzhou are now running the world’s largest and second largest bikesharing programs with 90,000 and 64,000 bikes respectively. More cities are building or planning to introduce public bike programs.
With the bikeshare movement, some cities revised their surface space priorities deferring to cyclists and pedestrians. The Guangdong province leads this trend. Its cities – such as Guangzhou and Foshan – have constructed “greenways” – biking and walking corridors paired with landscaping, alongside the development of bikesharing programs. Guangzhou is now the role model for Chinese pedestrian-cycling infrastructure, with over 1,000 kilometers of greenway connecting key attractions and mass transit hubs.
Greenway construction has also spurred grassroots NGOs to promote urban cycling, a rarity in China. BikeChina, one such cycling NGO has been promoting Guangzhou cycling for two years, engaging with the public, international think tanks, and government to make the city more bikable.
Trend 5 – Multi-modal Integration
Multi-modal integration is key in China’s transportation planning and will become a principle of future transportation development.
Currently, multi-modal integration is most often included in the design of hub stations. In the current 5-Year Plan alone, 100 multi-modal transport hubs will be created by 2015. Multi-modal integration at city-level is still facing challenges, mostly institutional fragmentation. However, cities like Guangzhou and Hangzhou present best practice of multi-modal integration for the rest of the country.
Guangzhou’s bikeshare system was integrated with bus rapid transit (BRT) throughout planning and implementation while Hangzhou has planned public bike stations in coordination with its bus and metro networks. In terms of fare systems, many Chinese cities provide integrated ticketing, allowing users to access different modes via a single farecard. Hangzhou’s system even places incentives on biking by rewarding riders with an extra 30 minutes of of public bike use with bus transfers. This integrated approach won Hangzhou the Mobi Prize, a global sustainable transport innovation award in 2012. Multi-modal integration is here to stay and grow: Shanghai’s public transport card can be used in six other cities and by 2015, a single farecard could be used in 60 other Chinese cities.
What’s more, the integrated transport information becomes more accessible to users in China with the advancement of technology. Currently, location-based mobile applications providing transport info such as “Shake and Ride” are available in large Chinese cities, helping the users navigate in the cities through public transport. The opening of real time transport data is also foreseeable – Last Nov., Beijing announced that the city would open the real time data of its buses and metro in 2013, and this change might increase the reliability of its public transport system.
Facing the great challenge brought by the rapid motorization and urbanization, China is making great investment to expand the urban railway, and more and more cities would reassess the role of private vehicles. Cities would start improving the quality of public transit by multi-modal integration while preserving or picking up the legacy of the non-motorized transport such as green way project. Innovation from the group also shows up in terms of new grassroot NGOs and the development of mobile applications. With these signs, we have reason to believe that China could make a difference and find a different motorization way to move people.