How reviving China’s dying tradition made money and reduced carbon footprint

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Beijing was known to be the ‘World Bicycle Capital’, and China as the ‘Kingdom of Bicycles’. This became a part of China social culture and was accepted as a way of living healthier, and with minimalist requirements.

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But with China’s PPP rising drastically over the past few decades the use of cycles is getting to reduced to a very small strata of society. The percentage of the population nationwide using bikes as their primary mode of transport dropped from 2 to 5 percent annually between 1990 and 2010, whereas car ownership skyrocketed from 5.5 million to over 70 million, according China’s National Statistic Yearbook. In Beijing alone, bicycle use fell from its peak in 1986 at 63 percent to only 13.9 percent in 2013, according to the Beijing Transport Research Center. According to David Wang, founder of Bamboo Bicycle Beijing, a common phrase of young people in auto company focus groups was “I can’t get married unless I have a car.” This changes the perception of what is important. The significance shifts from being environmentally friendly, to representing yourself as someone who can afford to buy a car. It appears as though it isn’t a choice, but a default way to go once affordability allows. The creation of this perception is what lowered the cycle market.

However, creation of a new perception could be used to revive the bicycle, one that Beijing Mobike, and Ofo Bicycle services are doing since the past few years. Ofo received 500 million $ funding, and Beijing Mobike received 100 million $ of funding, later last year. These services allow people to use a mobile app, find a cycle, pay for it through their phone, use it, and leave it anywhere since GPS will allow another person to find it. This has removed the fear of theft from the people’s minds, and create hassle free cycling since there aren’t any frequent repairs. Therefore, Mobike has put 100,000 bikes on the streets of Shanghai in just eight months.

When I read this I understood that China’s history of being a’Kingdom of Bicycles’ allowed it, but there must be more traditions that promote eco-friendly actions. Planting a tree when welcoming a new born child is such an example observed in Israel and China. A village in Rajasthan named Piplantri plants 111 trees every time a girl is born. And bees are mythological respected in Egyptian history. Many traditions show us a way to making the earth a greener place, and maybe revolutionising the way we market and sell them could make all the difference.

 

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