Been There, Crashed That: Scooter, eBike & Bicycle Survival in Shanghai

Been There, Crashed That: Scooter, eBike & Bicycle Survival in Shanghai

Scooters, eBikes and bicycles are without question the best way to navigate the streets of Shanghai. Metro riders and taxi passengers miss out on a world of sights, sounds and unfortunate smells that the humble two-wheeler offers up in abundance.

Unfortunately scooters, eBikes and bicycles also number among the most dangerous ways to get around. This is a survivor’s guide on how to identify the myriad of hazards that you will face, and come out the other side in one piece. Here are nine in particular to watch out for.

Be careful! It’s dangerous out there.

1) The Gauntlet
A.K.A. the Bike Lane, the gap between the edge of the pavement and the metal barrier that endeavours to separate the two-wheelers from the four. The gauntlet is the place where leisurely pedal bike riders mix it up with motorcyclists; often crowded, sandwiched between the twin hazards of pedestrians on one side, and cars on the other, this is sadly where most bike accidents happen.

Despite the barrier’s best efforts, it’s not uncommon for bike riders to leave its perimeters and fly through road traffic with reckless abandon; depending on the road, at times this may legitimately be a safer option.

2) The Peloton
One of the very worst scenarios in which to find yourself is in the middle of a group of bikes that have become amassed, traffic lights being the peloton’s most regular enabler. Riding within the peloton is risky business. All it takes is for one bicycle to swerve and a mass accident can ensue.

Escape from the peloton is highly recommended using any means at your disposal. Got a gas bike? Gun it. Get as far away from your fellow riders as possible. You need to view them as a threat to you and your family.

eBikes may not have the requisite power to employ this strategy so some deft manoeuvring may be required. Owners of pedal bikes are often at the mercy of other traffic. Slowing down and allowing the more aggressive riders to pass is often advisable.

3) Spatially Unaware Pedestrian
This guy truly is a danger to himself and those around him. He will walk backwards off the pavement, looking at the sky, infant clutched in his arms. He may rush off a bus directly into the path of oncoming bikes, looking in the opposite direction whilst talking on his phone. If he happens to be the proprietor of a roadside establishment he may unwittingly hurl buckets of unidentifiable liquids into the path of your inevitable forward momentum. At times difficult to avoid, the best approach is to slow down and give all pedestrians a wide berth—really wide.

4) Spatially Unaware Bike Rider
Similar to his pedestrian counterpart, only this guy’s been armed with a vehicle. Expect him to turn across your path without warning, to break suddenly for no apparent reason, to cut you off at junctions, and to come barrelling towards you against the flow of traffic.

Seeing as the use of indicators is almost a faux pas in Shanghai, it’s difficult to predict what traffic in front of you will do. Your best option is to make sure that you leave plenty of room between you and the bike in front and hope that they don’t do anything too crazy.

The Equestrian cruising for business.

5) The Equestrian
If you’ve ever been waiting for a while to grab a taxi, one of these gentlemen may have approached you trying to ply their trade. Riding motorbikes that look like they’ve been liberated from a cold-war museum, they charge up and down the roadway sporting a variety of protective headdresses, the most flamboyant of these being the debonair horse-riding helmet. They’re big, they’re loud and they can wreak havoc in the bike lanes. Steer clear.

6) The Kleptomaniac
Collecting anything that falls into the category of ‘stuff’, The Klepto curb crawls Shanghai’s streets ringing his bell and loading up his cart with stuff ranging from styrofoam to useless old trash. Beware of objects falling off the back!

7) White Road Markings
For some reason the Shanghainese authorities have selected ‘Slippery White’ as the official paint hue for all of Shanghai’s road markings. In dry conditions they don’t present any issues, but when it rains these markings can become precarious for bikes to ride over. In wet conditions slow down, or try to avoid them altogether.

The dreaded Darth Visor.

8) Darth Visor
Normally a middle-aged lady riding an eBike, Darth Visor causes a phenomenal number of accidents with her blissfully unaware style of weaving thought traffic on the way to buy vegetables or pick up her kid at school. No-one really knows why these women must sport such a highly reflective facial visor that can blind you on sunny days. Are they part of a secret Darth Vader fan club bent on bringing destruction to the streets of Shanghai? Anyway, you better muster whatever force you can to avoid them.   

9) Tooter McHorn
This guy is more of a nuisance than a legitimate threat. He will ride right behind you, attending to the tooting of his horn with unwavering devotion. If you can, go faster to get away from him or slow down to let him pass as Mr. McHorn is the number one cause of bike rage.

If you do happen to get into an accident (hopefully nothing too serious), the numerous bike repair shacks that can be found on side streets throughout Shanghai are normally well equipped to deal with problems large and small.

Finding Some Protection

Although not hugely prevalent on the heads of riders in Shanghai, helmets are a pretty wise investment. Bicycle helmets are available from bike stores around town like Giant. For scooter helmets and other safety equipment, the Shanghai Yichuan Moto Market probably has the most extensive range in the city.

Giant 捷安特 View In Map
Add: 743 Jianguo Xi Lu, near Hengshan Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6437 5041
Opening hours: Daily, 09:00-19:30

Shanghai Yichuan Moto Market 上海宜川摩配城 View In Map
Add: 127 Jiaoji Lu, near Jiaotong Lu, Zhabei District, Shanghai
Opening hours: Daily, 10:00-18:00

The key point to take home is that your well-being isn’t simply reliant on you operating your own bike in a safe manner. Instead, it’s mainly dependant on you avoiding the plethora of hazards that are, at times, literally being thrown at you.

So why ride if there are so many risks? Well, because as JFK said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.”

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Keywords: Survivor guide to biking in Shanghai transportation dangers Shanghai eBikes in Shanghai dangers of biking in Shanghai


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