One of my first observations about life in China is the sheer amount of people that crowd the streets, shops, restaurants, sidewalks and basically everywhere you look. After living and working in Manhattan (approximately 1.6 million people living squashed into a total land area of about 22 square miles) I assumed I’d be somewhat prepared for the mass volume and chaotic ambiance of downtown Shanghai. Well I wasn’t.
This is particularly apparent when walking across the Fudan Campus, which is often reminiscent of exiting a grandstand arena at the end of a sold out concert. The total student population is over 44,000 people. Put 95% of these people on small, fast-moving bikes (the must-have accessory in Shanghai) and you can imagine the overall manic feeling of walking through (or often against) hundreds of people on a daily basis.
It also must be noted that in Shanghai, people driving cars, scooters and bikes always (and I mean always) have the right-of-way. Many times my aggressive NYC street walking mindset (which assumes, of course, that all vehicles yield to me–even if I am stepping out in front of them in a mad dash to beat the light) got me into some close situations with people on wheels. (See this article written by friends of mine for a hilarious take on NYC street walking and right-of-way rules).
At this point, let me include a valuable tip for maneuvering around Shanghai on foot. While you’re strolling on the sidewalk, and a person riding a scooter ON said sidewalk is heading straight in your direction at 35mph, it is 100% YOUR responsibility to get the heck out of the way. If you’re a 4 year-old child or an 89 year old grandma or if you’re carrying an armload of groceries and you’re on your cell phone and not paying attention…none of this matters. It is your job to get lost, or get hit because the scooter rider will not veer. I repeat, the scooter rider will not veer. (It makes one think: what are sidewalks exactly for then in this case?)
With all this being said, it took me about 2 days at Fudan U to realize I wanted a bike ASAP.
The task of buying a bike is especially easy and cheap, as bikes are sold on almost every corner and you’d be absolutely crazy to buy anything else than a second-hand junker since bikes get stolen here on a daily basis. Below are photos of my “new,” but decrepit looking bike (costing only 20 USD, which also included the essential bike lock). My good friends Ariel and Edouard are also pictured with their second-hand bikes.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in this two-wheeled saga…my purchasing of an electric scooter. Below is a sneak peek…