KRISTA MILLS / FOR THE SUN
One of the cheapest ways to get around is on a rickshaw. For less than a dollar Canadian, he will pedal you to any destination you want.
There are about a million people in Yangzhou and 4 million if you include the surrounding area. Every part of this population uses some form of transportation, which makes the streets of this city a stressful adventure.
Within our first month living in China Krista and I bought e-bikes to get around Yangzhou. From the outskirts of the city where we live to the center of town takes us about 15 minutes to drive at night. During the day it is much more difficult and is nearly a half an hour of breaking, weaving and leaning on your horn while swearing in Chinese. You need a steely nerve and the reflexes of a mongoose to brave the streets of China during rush hour. We do though, because staying cooped up in the school everyday is mind numbing. Eventually the isolation would have us developing scurvy and rickets. I did not get my shots for these before leaving.
The e-bikes are great for getting around, fast and agile in a crowd, but it is not the only way. Crowded buses are popular and taxis are everywhere. You are stacked into these vehicles like cordwood and if you are short, good luck seeing your stop. They are cheaper but not necessarily the best choice.
So… E-bikes. China’s response to the western minivan. There are an enormous number of cars and vans on the roads already but the cheapest and easiest vehicle to own is a bike. They are treated as family vehicles too. Upwards of four people can fit on one e-bike if you balance them properly. If everyone helps out carrying stuff, there is no end to what you can fit onboard.
E-bikes can be more versatile too. Operating as transport of a home business and a food cart at the same time is a popular venture. Trucking supplies to different parts of the city is also as well known. Attach a cart to the back of your e-bike and you can transport anything from people to furniture. Some of these carts are so laden with stuff that rope is needed to tie everything down and additional bikes are needed to tow. It is unwieldy but it gets the job done.
When all of these variables are added to the equation of Chinese traffic, things can get slightly hectic. No one is wearing helmets and people often go the wrong way down streets. The only traffic law that is honoured is "do not get caught". If you are involved in an accident, the rule is you leave as fast as you can. Not something two relatively polite Canadians from rural Manitoba are used to.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 9, 2012