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04. A city ofconnection when technology meets way of life

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

This USL Forum vol. of March2019/3 By Dr. Chamnarn Tirapas, our deputy director, introduce the loved - slow and small mode of transportation in Shanghai, bicycle. It clarify how the affordable bike rental application could lead to the equity for commute. The article also pointed out that if Bangkok would wanted to success with her bicycle system, the city should embrace this and other small and slower mode of mobility.

After a few days of New Year 2019, I had a chance to revisit Shanghai for my fifth time. Many people probably known Shanghai as one of the modern and charming Chinese cities. My first visit to Shanghai was back in 2010 when the World Expo was held. On one hand, I was fascinated by the drastic changes that came along with the World Expo; for example, new subway lines and new high-rise buildings. On the other hand, the traditional housings were cleaned up and opened the path for the new modern city. Currently, with the fast economic growth of China, many Chinese cities have been driven by the high technologies, start-up businesses and entrepreneurs. However, in Shanghai, traditional ways of life somehow remained and adjusted themselves to the rapid growth.

The world had also known China as one of the bicycle-culture countries. Shanghai, as well as other cities, do keeps this local of transportation along with the modern transportation developments. This mode of transportation still remains as the government provided specific bicycle lanes all over the city. In addition, there are many private companies that support this bicycle system by providing rental bicycles for Shanghainese. Bicycle-riding is somehow one of the daily life activities. Chinese people, either rich or poor know how to ride the bicycle. From the community’s view point, it offers a local alternative choice for the citizens to handle with the high living expenses of the city.

Of course, with the technology being incorporated into the bicycle culture, the rental bicycle system are integrated to the mobile phone which all people have, especially young generation. People can use the bicycle with the shared bicycles by scanning the QR code on the bicycle with an apps., then the signal will unlock the bicycle for the users to use and ride to any destinations. When returning the bicycle, one just park and lock the bicycle at the designated space provided along the pedestrian walkways. It is as simple as it is and the rental rate is also very low. Every 20 minutes usage is charged only 1 RMB (about 5 Thai Baht), or one can rent it monthly for 9.9 RMB (about 50 Thai Baht/month). With this price, it definitely supports and encourages students and low-income people to use for short distance travel/commute. Furthermore, this rental bicycle stations are all over the city and located nearby the subway stations and bus stops, too. Therefore, the rental bicycle becomes a transportation mode that can connect the inhabitants’ homes to the city transportation system. As such, this system does not only offer a convenient urban life-style, but it also offers the equity for the people and choices for the public.

In Thai context, the city of Chiangmai have also applied the similar rental bicycle system as well. It is a good sign to see how a Thai city like this gradually connects all the transportation systems together. Even Bangkok does not have a strong bicycle culture as in Shanghai, but the system could be promoted and created. However, not only providing the bicycle lanes, but also the safety is the major issue that encourages citizens to ride bicycle in the city. In addition, the bicycle stations should be systematically provided with convenient access and visible to the public. However, the most important issue is that the city needs to acknowledge and accept small and slow transportations as well as fast and mass public transportations. Nevertheless, we hope to see this bicycle system to be applied in Bangkok.

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