Acting Danish ambassador in Beijing Soren Jacobsen (left) and Chinese actress Huang Yi ride during a biking event organized by the Danish Embassy. [Zou Hong / China Daily]
The city is hoping to make Beijing more bike- and pedestrian-friendly
The city is planning to bring in strict new penalties in a bid to stop cars taking over bike lanes.
"Car drivers parking in bike lanes or on the pavement will face a 200-yuan fine and a two-point deduction (from their licenses)," said Wang Yongqing, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Beijing Committee.
Wang was speaking at a biking event organized by the Danish embassy on Friday.
He said the capital will become well known as a bike-and pedestrian-friendly city during the next five to 10 years.
"More parking lots and rental services for bicycles will be built, especially near subway stations, so that more commuters can finish their 'last kilometer' by bike, where public transportation may not cover their journey door-to-door," said Wang.
Beijing has been offering bicycle rental services for more than four years but the facilities have not been used to capacity.
One company told Beijing News that it suffers a 5-million-yuan loss every year because of the low take-up rate.
The main reason for the lack of interest in renting bikes in the capital is thought to be the inadequate number of service sites, which make it inconvenient to rent and return bicycles.
To ease this situation, Wang said that by 2015 about 1,000 bicycle rental sites will be built near subway stations and bus stops.
"With about 50,000 public bikes and more bike-friendly streets, we hope to see 23 percent of people living in Beijing commute by bike by 2015," he said.
Friday's cycling event, named "Back on Bike", was launched to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations between Denmark and China. It was named "Back on Bike" because both countries have been well known for their enthusiasm for cycling.
Participants rode in a convoy from the Danish Embassy in Sanlitun to a restaurant at Worker's Stadium.
The trip took only 20 minutes and was supported by temporary traffic control measures from the police.
Soren Jacobsen, acting ambassador in Beijing, said: "The level of comfort should be increased by the use of new technology, not higher energy consumption."
One black bike stood out in the convoy. It had two small wheels at the front on either side of a small cargo area and one big wheel at the back.
The owner, Danish architect and city-planning expert Morten Holm, who has been riding his two kids to kindergartens on the bike for the past year, said the bike was imported from Denmark and cost about 13,000 yuan.
"About 25 percent of families with two kids use this kind of bike in Denmark," he said.
A recent survey conducted by the Danish Cyclist Federation showed 86 percent of members of the Danish parliament commute by bike, including Prime Minister Lars Lykke Rasmussen.
According to Holm, Danish people no longer look upon bicycle use as something that indicates a low social status - as people tend to do in China - but, he said, some Danes held such opinions 10 years ago.
"But people soon realized driving was not a good way to show social status, because it makes people fat," he said.
"It is also a bad role model for the kids. You don't want to show them how your belly grows, do you?"
As for ways to promote cycling in Beijing through urban planning, Holm said people in Denmark cycle not simply because it is green, but because it is convenient.
"So, making it easier for people to get around on bikes is the biggest challenge Beijing faces," he said.