After years of gathering dust in backyards and lockers, bikes have pedaled their way back into the minds of China's urbanites -- not as a transportation tool, but as a healthy, modern lifestyle.
China's capital city of Beijing is shown a growing number of bikes on the street. [File photo]
Liu Guanqin, a 28-year-old in Jinan, capital city of eastern China's Shandong Province, recently purchased two mountain bikes, including a pink one for his girlfriend.
The couple took a 20 km bike trip to Jinan's southern suburban area last weekend.
"It was really amazing to ride a bike on the country roads, and we think it's cool, green and good for our health," he said, adding that riding bikes feels refreshing after sitting in an office five days a week and commuting by car.
Since registering as a member of the online forum of BIKETO.com, Liu has had no difficulty finding others who share his love for biking.
Once dubbed "the Kingdom of Bikes," China claims to have 450 million bicycles across the country, according to China Bicycle Association.
In the 19th century, China's first bike cruised into Beijing's Forbidden City, the residence of China's last emperor at that time.
In the 1960s and 1970s, bikes were a symbol of decent lives lived by Chinese families, and in the 1980s, bikes became an ideal mode of transportation for the country's urbanites.
In the 1990s, bikes began disappearing from roads and being replaced by cars in China.
Although more and more people enjoyed the convenience and status that came with car ownership, they also began to suffer deteriorating air quality from exhaust emissions and health problems due to their increasingly sedentary lives.
These unhealthy trends have prompted some people to dust off their bikes and start pedaling again. Cities in the provinces of Shandong, Hunan and Hebei have set up associations to promote bike riding as an environmentally-friendly, healthy and fashionable lifestyle.
Meanwhile, local governments have made various efforts to show their support for cyclists.
Hangzhou, a city in east China's Zhejiang Province, was the country's first city to launch a public bike rental system. Its 2,050 rental stations lend out the city's 60,000 bicycles about 250,000 times each day.
Officials in Jinan plan to establish 2,000 bicycle rental sites during the 2011-2015 period as a way of encouraging low-carbon lifestyles.
China's capital city of Beijing is working out how to include bikes in its transportation blue print by 2015.