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The Future of Bicycle Transport in Urban China: a Case Study of Xi’an

This research aims to discover new knowledge and emerging business opportunities in the planning and development of bicycle transport in Chinese cities. The core question is whether urban China could be remodelled by a more active bicycle system and thus regain the title 'kingdom of bicycles' - a reputation China had enjoyed until the late 1980s – in the near future.

Bicycles have been fading out from China’s urban streets as a result of rapid motorisation, while cars have invaded urban spaces everywhere, causing congestion and safety, health and environmental concerns. Recently, many Chinese cities begin to re-introduce bicycles to their streets. However, as cities grow in scale and urban travel distance increases, cycling may often not be practicable.

By focusing on the institutional and infrastructural aspects, this research will examine the location patterns of bicycle transport in Xi’an – one of the pioneer cities in introducing public bicycles yet manageable in scale for an in-depth analysis – on city-wide and project (i.e. major transport facilities and interchanges) scales. The form and finance of cycling infrastructure including parking/rental facilities, users’ experiences including health implications, the possibility of buses and metro carrying bicycles, and the policies and prospects of bicycle transport will be studied.

Bike-sharing schemes might seem like a waste of space but the economics makes sense

The Conversation featured Professor Sun Sheng Han writing on the introduction of Obikes in Australia (Sep 2017).

"Local controversies over shared-bike schemes are expressions of how resident behaviour, municipal bylaws and cycling infrastructure are all too often proving to be unprepared to embrace and support a new mode of urban transport."

Read more on The Conversation.

A Greener 'Kingdom of Bicycles'

The University of Melbourne featured this research project on its news platform Pursuit in May 2017.

"In just thirty years, the bicycle, once the transport of choice for up to 523 million people in China, has become a relic of the past. From the 1970s, though until the early 1990s, bicycles offered mobility, comfort and prestige, making China internationally famous as the ‘Kingdom of Bicycles’.

Bicycles were regarded, along with watches, radios and sewing machines, as one of the four essential household items – known as ‘san zhuan yi xiang’ which translates to ‘three rounds and a sound’. After two decades of modernisation and motorisation, private cars now stubbornly remain top of the list of household status symbols."

Read more on Pursuit.


Visit the following web page to find other projects like this:

Transport Futures

Project Title

The Future of Bicycle Transport in Urban China: a Case Study of Xi’an

Major Sponsor


Research Partners

Arup Hong Kong
Chang’an University

Project Team

Professor Sun Sheng Han (Uni of Melb)
Researchers from Arup Hong Kong and Chang’an University, China


Professor Sun Sheng Han