VIEW FROM SHANGHAI:
Les Bicyclettes de Belsize is the title of a British short film released in 1968.
It relates the story of a young man cycling around the Hampstead area of London on a Raleigh bicycle.
He falls in love with a fashion model depicted on a billboard, after crashing into the billboard.
I’ve never seen the film. But the title song of the film has been a top ten hit in Britain and a top 40 hit in the United States for Engelbert Humperdinck, and so it was a part of the soundtrack of my growing up years. I’ve sung along to it dozens of times as it was being played on the radio.
The British film’s title is a derivative of the French film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. Since I’m currently at the Shanghai World Expo 2010, it’s as good a place as any to point out these international connections.
Here in Shanghai, one can’t help but notice the number of bicycles which form part of the vehicular traffic on the city’s streets. There are dedicated bicycle lanes to facilitate this particular mode of transport.
There’s a good reason for their ubiquitous presence. It is estimated that more than a billion bicycles are present in the world, with nearly half of them in China. According to worldometers.info, the People’s Republic of China produces over 60 per cent of the world’s bicycles, and 86 per cent of the bicycles sold in the United States are imports from China.
As recently as 1965, world production of cars and bikes was essentially the same, with each at nearly 20 million, but as of 2003 bicycle production had climbed to over 100 million per year, compared with 42 million cars. Bicycle production was up 3.2 per cent in 2007 to 130 million units, a continuation of the upward trend that has characterized production for most of this decade.
World Watch Institute puts it this way: “Global output continued to be largely a Chinese affair, as China produced two of every three bikes made worldwide.”
However, while cycle use in China is decreasing, Chinese cities still register some of the highest cycling rates in the world, despite growing consumer interest in private automobiles.
Here’s something to think about. World Watch recommends the use of bicycles as an action that can be taken to contribute to a green environment: ride your bike to work and for short trips to the store; encourage your local politicians to support bike lanes and other infrastructure that makes cycling safer, while providing disincentives for auto use; and If you have an unused bicycle sitting at home, consider donating it to a charity or individual that will use it.
The World Watch Institute’s motto is Vision For A Sustainable World. This vision is in keeping with the theme of the Shanghai Expo 2010 – Better City, Better Life.