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Beijing’s Covid Subway Shutdown Spurs ‘Bicycle Kingdom’ Revival

  • Bike demand surged as access to other transportation fell
  • The omicron outbreak triggered China’s ‘bicycle kingdom’ redux
Cylists on shared bikes in front of a locked gate of a subway station in Beijing, on May 4.
Cylists on shared bikes in front of a locked gate of a subway station in Beijing, on May 4.Photographer: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images 

Bicycle traffic in China’s capital surged after officials shut down large parts of the subway system to contain a Covid outbreak, with white-collar workers toting briefcases competing with others for two-wheelers to get around the city.

Roads in the eastern part of China’s capital this week flashed back to a common scene from three to four decades ago when the closed-off Communist country was behind in the use of automobiles. The revival of the former “bicycle kingdom” stems from the subway closures and orders for buses to skip stops to blunt omicron’s spread.