Taking inspiration from the "green" Olympics, which begin on Friday, a growing number of Beijing residents are opting for two wheels over four.
Many are dusting off their old bikes, while others, especially fashionable yuppies, are thronging to department stores and bike shops to snap up flash new models. In addition, a large number are renting before buying, to make sure the bikes are right for them.
Once the predominant mode of transportation in the country's cities, the bike is making a comeback, and vendors have reported a sales surge over the past several months.
The Emmelle specialty shop in Caishikou has extended its opening hours to 9 p.m. from 6 p.m. because slews of customers are going bike shopping after they clock out at work. The store's sales have increased several times in the past several months.
"We are selling an average of 20 bikes every weekday," Beijing branch director Pan Gongcun said. "We can sell twice as many on weekends."
A worker arranges rental bikes in downtown Beijing. Bike rental companies have reported brisker business after the alternating odd-and-even car plate rule was adopted to curb traffic. [file photo: Asianewsphoto]
Many shoppers drive to Pan's store in their cars. Most are well-off, aged in their 30s and 40s, and prefer high-end bikes with frames made of exotic composites coated in thick layers of lacquered paint. Such models typically go for about 5,000 yuan (US$730) before extras, such as headlights and reflectors.
Younger cyclists are opting for mountain bikes with at least 10 gears. This demographic is also fussier about the design and color scheme, and most seem to have a penchant for crimson red and bright yellow, Pan said.