In Beijing, where air pollution threatens to take years off your life, some people have no interest in riding a bike if they can possibly afford a car, which is a shame because rediscovering the tradition of cycling could help reduce the smog that chokes the city. So the solution for bicycle and clean air advocates is to try to make biking cool in Beijing.
In her story on the "de-bikification of Beijing," Atlantic Cities' Debra Bruno pointed to research by Jinhua Zhao, of the University of British Columbia, who found that "bicycle use in Beijing has dropped from about 60 percent in 1986 to 17 percent in 2010. At the same time, car use has grown 15 percent a year for the last ten years." Some people love their cars because the cars symbolize arrival in the middle class, Jinhua said.
So groups like Smarter Than Car, an NGO, want to make bikes hip. "Smarter Than Car organized its first Beijing Bike Week in March, setting up a post in a luxury shopping mall surrounded by Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Maserati car dealers. The group showed movies about biking, ran a bike polo match, and organized a kind of scavenger hunt on bikes called an alleycat race," Bruno writes. The problem for Smarter Than Car is that those events aren't hip all by themselves.