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World’s Biggest Bicycle Network Carries Hangzhou to Top of China’s Tourism Destinations

April 30, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email
The largest bike-sharing system in the world has helped Hangzhou become one of the top tourism destinations for travelers visiting China, with the 66,500 public bicycles making the natural beauty, cultural heritage and scenic lakes of Hangzhou more accessible than ever.
Launched in 2008, the Hangzhou Public Bicycle network started with 2,800 bicycles from 60 bike stations. Within five years, those numbers increased to 66,500 bicycles operating from 2,700 stations, with riders on a typical day taking 240,000 rides around the city’s top attractions, including its historic temples  and the UNESCO World Heritage listed West Lake.

Visiting Hangzhou by bike has proven so popular that the city estimates there will be a total of 175,000 bikes in action by 2020 to cater to the growing interest from both locals and domestic and international travelers. The most Googleddestination in China, Hangzhou was recently ranked as the country’s fifth top city for international travelers, with more than 3 million visitors in the past year and tourism up 18.5% during the 2014 Chinese New Year holiday. unnamed (11)

Part of the system’s popularity stems from the constant care its bicycles receive. A roving staff fixes chains, brakes, and wheels, maintains proper tire pressure, and collects and redistributes bicycles so that all stations have an adequate supply.

More than a dozen of the primary service spots for Hangzhou Public Bicycle are around West Lake, the city’s major tourist mecca. They include the south gate of the Zhejiang Great Hall of the People, the gate of Liu Lkang Wen Ying (Orioles Singing in the Willows), Ping Hu Qiu Yue (Moon Over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn), and the Mausoleum of General Yue Fei.

Other bicycle-sharing spots are the north and south bus stations, the zoo, the north gate of Xixi Wetland, and Six Harmonies Pagoda.

Scenic West Lake, surrounded by mountains on three sides, commands the most attention from bicycle enthusiasts because of its blend of monuments, markers, temples, and pagodas.

Beginners might prefer the North Route, shortest of the three at 4.7 miles. It features Lingyin Temple, Yue Miao (Mausoleum of General Yue Fei), and Ping Hu Qiu Yue (Moon Over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn).

The longer South Route, at 6.5 mi, passes the zoo, the south entrance of the Su Causeway, and Six Harmonies Pagoda.

To catch highlights from both, the best bet is the Round Lake Route, embracing 7.7 miles. Its many highlights include the Su Causeway, the mausoleum, the West Gate of Flower Pond, and Orioles Singing in the Willows.

Some of the top five bicycle routes in Hangzhou:

  • Broken Bridge and Su Di Causeway (3.3 mi) – Great for stone arch bridges, nature trails, and museums and a restaurant regarded for its preparation of local fare (Louwailou). The causeway, lined by trees, cuts across the entire surface of the lake and provides ample opportunities for camera-toting bicycle riders to stop for pictures.
  • Hidden West Lake (6 mi) – Tombs, temples, and gardens off the beaten path are highlights of this quiet trek, which traverses Yanggoing Di causeway and includes Yellow Dragon Stadium and four restaurants on Baishaquan Alley.
  • Quyuan Fenghe to Temple of Soul’s Retreat (2.2 mi) – See Hangzhou Botanical Park plus one of the largest Buddhuist temples anywhere in China.
  • The Grand Canal (7.1 mi) – Water taxis, river barges, and vessels of all descriptions ply this historic waterway, in use more than 2,000 years. Longer than the Suez or Panama canals, the Grand has been lovingly restored by Hangzhou city fathers. Bicycle riders can ride up canal-side footpaths and see the museums and homes, both old and new.
  • Six Harmonies Pagoda to Qianjiang New City (6 mi) – En route to the oldest pagoda in Hangzhou, the bike path follows the Qiantang River and crosses three huge bridges. After all the living history, this route provides a surprise: a glimpse of the futuristic architecture of Hangzhou Grand Theater and the towers of the China Construction Bank.
Already the largest bike-sharing system in the world, Hangzhou Public Bicycle is one of 19 such networks in China. But all the others copied the Hangzhou model, which was the nation’s first.

Designed to ensure that users can switch from mass transit to bike-sharing, the system is extremely cost-friendly. Users pay nothing for the first hour, then one yuan (15 cents) for the second hour, two yuan (30 cents) for the third hour, and three yuan (44 cents) per hour for any additional time consumed.

Because charges are applied in relation to the length of time any one bicycle is rented, savvy shoppers often return their bikes before the first hour has elapsed and then rent others without keeping any one bike longer than an hour.

Locals and tourists alike love Hangzhou Public Bicycle. According to a recent survey, 30 per cent of local users commute to work by rented bicycle.

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