Category Archives: Bicycle Urbanism

Bicycle Urbanism, Team Update #2

Project update by Valerie Gamao, Joyce Hujing, J.K., Yipei Shen, Elaine Zhou

Our recent focus has been understanding the ecosystem of the various different bicycle livelihoods — from providing services like recycling or parcel delivery, to providing goods and products like food or phone cases, and from legal status to illegal status.

First, we learned that a bicycle livelihood used to be, and has the potential to be very lucrative. The parcel delivery guy moved to Beijing specifically because of his job, and the person who collects recycled good reminisced the “good old days”, when one can make almost 10,000 RMB/month (a salary higher than that of a recent Tsinghua grad). It’s a service that the people enjoy and still enjoy using, considering that the recycling man oftentimes receives calls from a set of clients that he has.

Second, we learned that even though the pay is above average and working conditions relatively pleasant and flexible, some of our interviewees still did not tell their families about their jobs due to a sense of embarrassment. However, other individuals were more than happy to share with us their stories.

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Bicycle Urbanism Team Update

This post is by Valerie Gamao, Joyce Hujing, J.K., Yipei Shen, Elaine Zhou

Our group is Bicycle Urbanism and Livelihoods. We’re Elaine, Valerie, Yipei, Joyce, and JK. We hail from different states in the US and provinces in China, and three different majors (earth systems, interaction design, and computer science).


Our first day, we brainstormed a variety of questions on urban bicycling and bicycle livelihoods. We used the mind-mapping method to collect all of our questions into four categories: the individual, bicycle, environment, and society. From the brainstorming session, we realized we had so many unanswered questions, even as to “what is a bike?” or what kind of bicycles are relevant to Beijing. Thus, we launched right into our first field study, to get a sense of types of bikes, how and why people bike in this city. We decided to observe the bicycle scene close to our home base: Wudaokou and the Tsinghua East Gate. Our methodology included counting for 6 minutes and informal interviews.

At each site, we recorded 6 minutes of time-lapse footage and counter the number of bikers passing by, as categorized by the types of bike (mechanical, electric, or electric scooter). At Wudoukou, we found 28 mechanical bikes, 9 electric bikes, and 25 scooters. There were many more cars and didn’t seem to be a clear preference for bicycle type. However, it was evident that different bikes were favored by particular demographics — younger people for electric bikes and scooters, versus older folks for mechanical bikes. At the East Gate however, we found 113 mechanical bikes, 11 electric bikes, and 19 electric scooters. With the focus narrowed down to a student demographic on a university campus, the preference for mechanical bikes is very clear.

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