Riding a bicycle can be a very satisfying experience while living or working in Shanghai, as it allows one to quickly learn the city streets and find surprising places not easily discovered. As great as biking in Shanghai is, however, it is not without it's hassles, including traffic, pollution, and bike thieves. We put together this short guide to biking in Shanghai to help you bypass the problems typically encountered by newcomers in this city and show you how to find everything you need to know, from buying your bike to finding some of the cities best bike routes
Where Can I Buy a Bike?
Bikes can be found almost anywhere. There are a few recommended retailers that you can turn to.
- Carrefour: The French supermarket chain offers a wide selection of bicycles and scooters at a reasonable price. You’ll pay a bit above what you find on the street, but the benefit is that the price listed is the price you pay. No worries about paying more than the locals. Expect to pay 400-1000 RMB for a typical city bike. Locations can be found here.
- Neighborhood bike shops: Bikes and repairs can both be obtained at these streetside vendors. Chinese brands such as Phoenix can be purchased here for 300-700rmb. They’re your best bet for something quick and easy, without the larger investment (and appeal to thieves) of a name brand.
- Brand Shops: Giant, Momentum and Specialized all have locations in Shanghai. Giant is a trusted seller with prices that start at 500rmb for a basic model, and goes up from there. Newer on the market is Giant-owned Momentum, which is comparable to Giant but has a few stylistic differences that may appeal. At the higher end is Specialized- don’t expect to spend under 2000rmb. If you purchase one of these brands, repairs can be done here by an expert. Locations for all of these can be found on SmartShanghai.
- Fixed-gear shops: In the market for something more customized and aesthetically pleasing? Fixies have been all the rage in Shanghai, seemingly overwhelming the streets in the past few years. Options range from Factory Five (custom builds and re-fits) and Airwalk on the pricey end, with “Fixie Frank” offering super-inexpensive fixed gears. As with anything, you get what you pay for. Locations for these fixie shops can be found on the bike shop list.
- Locks: Shanghai is a total bike haven for thieves. We recommend using no less than 2 locks, unless you’re using something like an imported Kryptonite-style lock from the US or Europe. Your standard 25rmb lock from a neighborhood shop is easily broken by crooks. Use a mix of lock styles, and lock with friends for some added complications. Go for a U-lock as well as a heavy chain when necessary. Definitely take your bike inside at night! Check out a locking guide here.
…Now that you’ve got your bike squared away, how about those “rules of the road”?
To put it simply, they really don’t exist. However there are some very general guidelines that people follow, and they’ll help you stay safe.
Rules of the Road
- Stop at the intersections for red lights. Unless it’s late at night and no traffic is coming through, play it safe. You’ll see locals speeding through intersections filled with traffic- who knows if they’re in a rush or not, but use the time to hang out, observe people (people-watching in Shanghai is priceless), and collect your thoughts about whatever you’re doing.
- Be prepared for cars turning in front of you or pushing you towards the curb. Traffic in Shanghai is a bit like a river, where things ebb and flow and somehow everyone gets to where they’re going, maybe with a mishap or a holdup along the way. Give everyone some room to be flexible and all should be fine.
- Riding in the opposite direction of oncoming traffic is dangerous. This goes for both other bikes, scooters and cars. Many bike lanes will only be on one side of the street, going one direction.
- Stick to the roads that allow bikes, and find ways to avoid the roads that don't. Major roads such as Yan’an, Huaihai, Nanjing, etc. don’t allow bikes, and for good reason. They’re already slammed with traffic and difficult to navigate. Use that to give yourself a chance to know the side-streets- streets north/south/east/west of each non-bike road will be a blast. They’re usually highly populated by other bikes and scooters, and can feel like a raceway during rush hour.
- Use bike lanes. Pretty obvious, but the bike lanes will be designated to give you some extra space next to cars. Cars in Shanghai will occasionally park or roam into bike lanes, so keep your eyes open. BIke lanes will usually go one-way along some streets, so get to know the parallel streets that allow bikes to go in the opposite direction. For example, RuiJin Lu will allow bikes going southward, whereas Shaanxi Lu will allow a northward movement.
- Wear a mask. You’ll be thankful for it later. Exhaust fumes, streetside smells, dust, pollution… Shanghai is full of it along the streets and the mask will help alleviate some of that.
Bike Routes to Get Started
a) Take Beisuzhou Lu eastward towards the bund. You’ll see a number of bridges and historical buildings leading to a magnificent view of the former Garden Bridge and Lujiazui.
b) Proceed to Ruijin Lu. Cross Zhaojiabang Lu, continue southward until you hit the end! You’ll be alongside the Huangpu River south of downtown, in view of old cranes. In the park will be a rock climbing wall, museum, and skate park to explore. Great place for a picnic or to relax and watch the boats go by.
c) Xiangyang Lu to Nanchang Lu (go east) into Xintiandi.
d) Fuxing Lu (go east) to the end, turn South to reach the Cool Docks
e) Fuxing Lu to the end > proceed onto the Fuxing Lu Ferry (bikes can be taken onto the boat) and into Pudong!
f) Take the Nanpu Bridge Ferry across into pudong and ride through the old Expo site. See the China Pavilion, Mercedes-Benz Arena. Can continue along the empty streets until you reach the Aquatic centers.
g) Nansuzhou Lu (westward) to M50 art space & galleries, and eastward to the Bund and Rockbund.
h) Anywhere in the Former French Concession! Gao’an Lu, Yongfu Lu, Fuxing Lu, Wulumuqi Lu, Yanqing Lu, Changle Lu, Julu Lu & more.
Bring a map in case you get lost and brush up on your Chinese directions. Google services are blocked periodically, so relying on Google Maps may be hit-or-miss. In that event, try Baidu maps as a backup.
For some great rides at night check out the Factory Five Night Rides. With a regular turnout of over 100 riders, you’ll be part of a crazy ride each time. Wear a helmet and keep your eyes open.