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Thousands return to pedal power
By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-02 09:04

GUANGZHOU: Tens of thousands of residents in the capital of South China's Guangdong Province are getting back on their bikes.

They are turning to pedal power again as the city plans to phase out its 320,000 motorcycles by the end of 2006, which are seen as the cause of pollution and frequent traffic jams.

Instead of turning to automobiles, still regarded as a luxury by low-income residents, which make up the majority of the city's population, many tend to use bicycles as their means of getting from A to B.

Chen Guohua, an assistant manager of a local advertisement company, began going to work by bike a month ago.

He stopped using his motorbike last month after the city's decision to phase them out.

"Now I am becoming used to riding the bicycle to work," said Chen.

Motorbikes have been banned in the non-rush hour period starting from May 1 in some of the city's major roads and downtown areas.

The ban is expected to extend to every corner of the city by 2007, according to the municipal government.

Guangzhou used to be a city that made and used lots of bikes until the mid-1980s.

But, as people have become increasingly prosperous, they have tended not to use bicycles.

But now the motorbike ban has led to a huge increase in bicycle sales in the city.

"A bicycle costs much less than a car, and it is a very convenient commuting means," said Xiao Chen, a local motorcyclist before the ban.

Li Xianhan, sales manager of Guangzhou-based Dibik Bicycle Company, said his company saw a steady increase in sales over the past few months.

"In March, about 700-800 bicycles were sold, but more than 1,000 bicycles were sold in April," said Li.

"The sales volume is expected to achieve a steady increase following the banning of motorcycles in the city," Li told China Daily.

Qin Mingsheng, sales manager of Guangzhou-based Five Rams Bicycle Company, said the company's sales agents now tend to pay back money to the company before sales.

"However, the agents used to pay back after sales, because few people tended to buy bikes until a few months ago," Qian said.

At the same time, many local residents, including students and workers, bought their bicycles in the second-hand bicycle market, or the so-called "black market."

Second-hand bicycles, which are often stolen from their original owners and sold at the "black market," cost no more than 100 yuan (US$12), less expensive than new ones.

Local experts and officials have warned residents not to buy such stolen bikes, to help curb thefts.

However, Ou Qiang, who was a motorcyclist before the ban, went to a motor market last week, hoping to buy a cheap car.

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