It takes balls to ride a bike in Shanghai! It also helps to have eyes on the side of your head and in the back, too. Oh, and a belief in immortality, or a peaceful acceptance of your own mortality goes a long way in making your time on the streets less nerve racking.
I hadn’t ridden a bike in a couple of years, ever since I moved to Seattle and realized that I was never going to pedal my ass up one of those hills. In fact, the last time I rode a bike was when we lived in Coeur d’Alene and took leisurely rides downtown for a Sunday morning coffee at Java on Sherman. Not exactly into the teeth of a daunting metropolis. So now, I’m in Shanghai all of 5 weeks and I still marvel at the sheer number of bikes and scooters swarming the streets with a complete and utter disregard for even the most fundamental traffic rules, you know, like one-way streets, red lights, riding on the right side of the road, crosswalks, sidewalks and left turn yields on green (few, if any bikes or scooters actually turn left, mostly they just drift from right to left through traffic until they are eventually heading perpendicular to their original direction. You know, the shortest distance between two points theorem. The Chinese are nothing if not pragmatic).
Melinda suggested that I rent a bike a time, or two, to see if riding in this insanity would be something I’d actually do, but that seemed too logical and thoughtful, to me. Melinda left for the States this Sunday past and I bought a bike on Monday. Not the fancy, hand rebuilt Chinese Postal Classic that had caught my eye, but a less-expensive, but more functional bike. Might as well just dive into it is my motto, although I can’t remember why or when it became my motto (maybe just now). The day after buying the bike was consumed by getting a gym membership (more on that later), my now weekly visit to the Chiropractor and another trip to Ikea to pick-up a couple of small desks for the living room and some kitchen and laundry items for Pink (more on that, too). Today, after Pink finished cleaning and hanging the laundry on the balcony (don’t tell Melinda), I was ready to plunge into the streets of Shanghai. I’ve gotta admit, I had a bit of nervousness thinking about riding in all that traffic and chaos, but after I went downstairs and rode the bike in the private drive in our complex, testing gears and brakes and adjusting the seat, everything seemed okay so I took off.
I have to say “I rocked the road!”
The ride felt like a great downhill run on skis flying over packed powder, smooth, fast going with the flow, head spinning on its axis taking it all in. Gliding. I ride with the rhythm and reactions of a Shanghainese, anticipating the cars and pedestrians, avoiding eye contact with drivers and the people walking down the sidewalk (yes, parts of the journey included cutting on the sidewalk and weaving through pedestrians) passing slow-moving electric scooters, and swerving around taxis making curb-to-curb U-turns. Moving, moving, moving. Feng shui riding.
I covered 10 km, found the home court of the Shanghai Sharks basketball team ( think Yao Ming) and stumbled across another ferry location crossing to the north.
Shanghai on two wheels. Watch out!