New Internationalist

Flying Pigeons Forever

January 1993

new internationalist
issue 239 - January 1993

Flying pigeons forever
Bikes are best - in China they are a way of life, at the hub
of a wheel that reaches round the Third World.

Pedal, chain, wheels and frame - the basic design of the bicycle is as near perfect as a machine can be. And bikes are good for you, too. For every person who takes a trip by bike rather than by car there is less pollution, less fuel used, less space taken on the road and one healthier person.

The world's 800 million bicycles outnumber cars by two to one and almost half of them are in China. In the US there are fewer bicycles than cars: in China there are 250 times as many.

Between them, the 'Flying Pigeon' factory in Tianjin and the 'Forever' factory in Shanghai produce almost seven million bicycles every year. The parts are sent out in kit form to be assembled by hundreds of local distributors. So employment in the bicycle industry is spread widely across the country.

The 'Flying Pigeon' factory exports to 32 countries, particularly to the Third World where sturdy, durable design and low-cost components are essential. China makes all the bicycles sold in Bangladesh, where they are an important working tool and the basic means of transport for millions of people - 40 per cent of daily trips in Dacca are made by bicycle.

People who earn their living by pedalling for public transport suffer severely from exhaustion and damage to their bone structures; they seem to be just one step away from beasts of burden. The factory work, though relatively clean and healthy, is still repetitive and unrewarding. Nonetheless, people who work with bicycles seem to share a sense of common endeavour.

Industrial countries have as many bikes per head as in Asia, but tend to use them less. The good citizens of Groningen in the Netherlands, however, make half their daily trips by bike - more even than in Beijing, China. Tianjin, home of the 'Flying Pigeon', tops the world league, with three-quarters of daily trips made by bike. That may not make the people of Tianjin the happiest and healthiest in the world - but it should help.

previous page choose a different magazine go to the contents page go to the NI home page next page

This feature was published in the January 1993 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Never miss another story! Get our FREE fortnightly eNews

Comments on Flying Pigeons Forever

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Features

All Features

Popular tags

All tags

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.