A little bright spot

China might not have gone completely car mad, after all: China backs bikes to kick car habit. Compare this to a previously linked story from five years ago: Bicycle No Longer King of the Road in China.

6 thoughts on “A little bright spot”

  • Jim

    If you throw the frog in boiling water, it’s going to jump out. If you throw the frog in cool water, and inch up the temperature a degree at a time, the frog will boil to death. For all I know, that may be some sort of Chinese proverb, but I heard it from my (non-Chinese) mother. The crowdedness in Chinese cities and their history of slower, cleaner transportation, apparently, assures that widespread use of automobiles has the same effect as the boiling water on the frog. Here, where it’s somewhat less crowded, and we’ve had 100 years of increasing dependence on the automobile, we seem to not notice the incremental progression of the problem, just like the frog grows accustomed to the increasingly hot water.

  • Cara Lin Bridgman


    For all I know, your visit to China might have had a small bit to do with this new policy. In other words, I can’t believe that visitors to China, especially for business, are not checked out by the government. The timing (and style) of your visit followed by World Bank’s recommendation might have helped. Your business and blog does give China some very positive PR.

    My family, some of which grew up in China, really enjoyed reading about your visit.


  • Allan

    Hey Todd,

    I’m not surprised by this at all. China has a planned economy run by technocrats and engineers. This is exactly the type of decision one would expect from a group of engineers taking a 20 year long-view. Those running China fully recognize there is not enough oil in the world for their billion people to have the modern, “western” standard of living. Much better to nip the desire for this luxury in the bud.

    Getting back to the not-enough-petrol theme, China is also slated to build a tremendous amount of nuclear power over the next 10-20 years. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the details any more specifically than “tremendous”.

    Perhaps when their nuclear infrastructure is all built out and battery technology is an order of magnitude more advanced, they will return to building cars and roads.

    The thing is, China is so freaking huge, population wise, a lot of things we take for granted just don’t scale up. For instance, there is an enormous diminshing marginal return to sky scrapers. As they get taller, to hold more people, the elevators to move the people take up more and more space. Thus reducing the number of people that can be held on a floor, thus requiring the building be taller to hold the desired number of people. I think a similar thing is in effect with streets and cars. As more people have cars, you need more roads. As you add roads, you have less space to put the people, meaning the people have to be further apart, meaning they need cars even more to travel the longer distances, meaning they need more roads, meaning they need to be further apart. Quite a vicious cycle.

    I don’t see cars ever having the kind of market penetration they have in the US & Europe. Electric motorcycles, probably. Is that an improvement? I dunno.

    Oh, and finally China has a demographic ticking time-bomb. And not the kind I’d wager most self-identifying liberals think of. By the time they can afford a moto in every garage, they might not need one after all. China is one screwed up place. Sure am glad I don’t have to worry about running it.

  • Todd

    Um, Jim, that frog in the water thing appears in Al Gore’s movie, too. I have recently heard it attacked as yet another example of bad science in the movie, because apparently frogs do indeed try to get out of the water at well below the lethal temperature.

    Cara, I doubt it :^)

  • Don Felix

    Come to think of it, if you throw a frog in boiling water, it probably goes into shock before it can jump out, so the frog in the water thing is probably exactly the opposite of reality!

  • Bruce Wilson

    I never thought I'd see the day when I would agree with the Chinese communist Party.

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