Biking in Beijing Gains Speed

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BEIJING, China - China's red hot economy may be cooling off somewhat, but at Hanson Yan's Windspeed bike shop in Beijing, weekly sales are up by about 50 percent.

"As the quality of life improves, more and more people are buying high-end bikes as a luxury and exercise tool for recreation," he explained. "Owning one of these bikes is a kind of status symbol."

More than 1,000 new cars hit the roads in Beijing every day. But despite growing wealth, not everyone can afford one. Now, riding bikes for fun is an idea that has gained traction in China.

Guo Xiaofeng is usually sitting behind the wheel of his car every day and driving to work in downtown Beijing. But in the last couple of weeks, Xiaofeng, like so many other drivers, has had to rely on his bike to get around town.

"The government has taken more than half the city's cars off the road during the Olympic Games to cut congestion and pollution. I don't mind riding, it is a nice change," he said

As China's middle class grows, the number of cars clogging the highways is rising. Still, on any given day in Beijing, nearly 10 million people pedal through the city. There are more bicycles here in Beijing than any other city in the world.

And according to Yan, people are dropping big bucks for fancy bikes.

"The lighter the better," he said. "The materials used in the old days were made of heavy steel but today these bikes are made of fiber glass so that makes it very light but strong. These are more expensive but very popular."

Beijing has had to widen roads for new cars while cycle lanes have become narrower, and many bike lanes have become side lanes for cars or buses.

"We have to be very careful on the road. There are strict rules that people obey to make sure accidents don't happen," Xiaofeng said.

For someone who has never ridden a bike in Beijing, he adds that it's best to obey usual traffic laws.

"Don't ride to fast and always keep your hands on the brakes!" he said.

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