Articles By: Doyin Oyeniyi
In the bike parking lot of Zhang Shan Park Subway Station in Shanghai, the electronic bikes outnumber the regular bikes. There are dozens of them, ranging from brand new and fashionable Giant bikes to old, rusted bikes. No matter their condition, they are a growing trend in China’s changing bike culture.
Ding Xijiu sits in his small kitchen, gazing out a window facing the street where seven wooden boxes line the small area in front of his house. Hundreds of bees quietly fly in and out of the boxes, carrying pollen down from the yellow cole flowers that dot the mountains around Xiejiaqiao, a village near Hangzhou.
When recently approached by a Western visitor, high school graduate Xie Jing said, “This is my first time talking to a foreigner, so I am nervous.” Xie, who lives in Xiejiaqiao, a rural village near Hangzhou, isn’t alone. Although Xiejiaqiao is a small village, even students in cities like Beijing don’t practice English enough.
When Ines Brunn first opened up Natooke, her fixed-gear bike shop in Beijing in 2009, it took a while for the idea of fixed-gear bikes to catch on with Chinese cyclists. Fixed-gear bikes are so named because they have only one gear on the back wheel that’s directly connected to the pedals.
I have never been so aware of the color of my skin as I when I was in China. While my group stood out because we were all clearly foreigners, it’s pretty safe to say that I stood out the most as the only African American in my group. While walking down the street with another correspondent one day, she turned to me and said, “Yeah, it’s definitely different walking next to you.”