On Your Bike….

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April in K & M Communities looks at transport. We thought it might be fun to look and see what others countries do. So, read on to find out how public transport Chinese style operates…..eric idle 1

Think we’ve got transport headaches? How do you think the most populated country in the world copes, especially when 95% of them don’t even own a car?

There are 1.3 BILLION people in China.  Personal cars are a fairly recent addition to China’s roads, and thankfully so! Even with the government-limited issuance of license plates through a monthly lottery, the roads are already congested with their inability to contain such an explosion in numbers and constantly needing repair, and air pollution hangs thick. China will likely never hold such numbers like America does in percentage of the population with private cars.  So for the 95% who don’t own cars, there have to be efficient, available methods to get around.

For a “developing” country China has its transportation act together! It doesn’t really matter how small or remote the place, there are long distance and local buses available.  While long-distance bus travel is not the most comfortable, it is fairly efficient and very affordable. You can show up to the long-distance bus station and usually buy a ticket for your destination that leaves within a half-hour.The local bus system is not quite so efficient, buses being less frequent and stopping many times along the way.

Another “fun” China travel experience is taking a train. When taking a train, you can purchase a business-class or economy-class seat, a “hard” sleeper (6 bunks per compartment), a “soft” sleeper (4 bunks per compartment) , OR a standing ticket! Yes, a standing ticket. There are really no capacity limits followed on the older trains, and often, especially during Chinese holidays, public transport is packed to the gills. There are elements to any China travel experience to which a westerner should learn to adjust in order to maintain sanity. On trains, people love to eat sunflower seeds and other snacks from which the trash produced will be spit on the floor. Attendants come along regularly to sweep it away. You should also be prepared for the blaring sounds of the Chinese movie being played throughout the train. And finally, booking the bottom bunk in the sleeper has its perks and drawbacks. The major perks are bottom bunk is perfect for sitting and you don’t have to climb into your bed. The major drawback is the bottom bunk is perfect for sitting – and all your compartment-mates will think so too. Chinese have no sense of personal space and will freely join you in sitting on your bottom bunk – even if you are trying to sleep.

So at the end of the day, the choice is yours. Why not shun your car for a change and try out public transport. Sit back and let someone else do the driving, or else you could always get on your bike!

Penny Farthing



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