Monday, September 19, 2005

Yesterday afternoon I bought a brand-new bicycle for about $20. By this morning, it was stolen from the tented bike hut on the grounds of my apartment building - a tent that has a security guard. I hadn't even used it once.

Unlike most Chinese cyclists, I didn't simply chain the tire to the frame. I secured it with a heavy "motorcycle" lock to a sturdy pole. I purposely bought a plain, local brand bike with smallish wheels and no gears. Unfortuantely I got it from a shop directly across from my apartment building, so they knew a foreigner had just chained a brand new bike in the tent.

"Mei ban fat," said one of my Chinese teachers. Nothing I can do about it. Most people lose three or four bikes a year, they said, especially students on college campuses. So this afternoon, I spent another $20 buying another lock and repairing the brakes on a used bike belonging to one of our office staff. Fingers crossed.

When I told my taxi driver the story, he looked amazed. He had heard of stolen bikes – but before I had even sat on it? He laughed and told me it didn't matter whether I bought an old one, a new one, or used three locks. It was bound to be stolen again.

A new bike is about a week's worth of taxi fare to and from school, so it's worth trying again. Looking forward to seeing so much more of Beijing this way.

Does anyone make a bike lock that can't be cut or picked and is big enough to chain a bike to a tree? Could be a market here.

As for helmets, I really ought to get one. But no one wears them here. Motorists are supposedly fined heavily for hitting cyclists, who have their own bike lanes here.

Even bike shop owners otherwise looking to make a sale told me not to bother. Their rationale: you'll look like a foreigner. But maybe this is the one time I really want to look like a foreigner.