Coming from Los Angeles, a city known for its lack of public transport and the near necessity of transporting by car, one of the things I was most excited about when coming to Shanghai was the many ways to get around! I’ve been on metros, DiDis, and, of course, bikes! After biking around Qiantan and to the Bund and back, I believe biking to not only be one of the most convenient but also the most enjoyable forms of transportation in Shanghai. So I’m here to tell you why.

Well, why bike in Shanghai? Shanghai is unique among cities when compared to the cities of the West, namely the bike lanes. Although not always found in older parts of Shanghai, one can find a split in the road all over the city. This split is situated between the large car lanes and the much smaller side lanes for biking. In a city like Los Angeles or even New York, it can be overwhelming to bike in the city, being surrounded by cars on a small bike. It’s daunting, so this simple inclusion makes all the difference. 

If you don’t own a bike, no problem! Not only is Shanghai built to be biked, but it’s extremely easy to rent one. All around the city, you’re likely to see one of these three bikes:

Hello Bike (Sky Blue)

Hello Bike is the simplest to use but usually has the lowest quality. These bikes can simply be activated by scanning the QR code on Alipay. For every 30 minutes on the bike, you are charged 1.5 RMB; however, if you have the Hello Bike app, you can purchase a 30-day infinite bike pass for 25 RMB. I highly recommend this for avid bikers; if you consistently use a bike to get to, say, campus, it is a steal. But as I said, it’s uncommon to find one that is in perfect condition, partly for reasons I will get into in my next article…

Meituan Bike (Yellow)

Meituan Bike is another good contender; as you can guess from the name, these can be accessed simply using the Meituan QR code scanner. These go for the same base price as Hello Bike of 1.5 RMB every half hour but lack a pass system.

Qingju Bike (Turquoise) 

Finally, there is the Qingju Bike. These are usually the highest-quality bikes you can find around Shanghai. Simply put, I’ve commonly seen newer versions of these compared to, say, Hello Bikes, which vary in model. Still, they go for 1.5 RMB every 30 minutes and can be accessed with a scan from the DiDi app or WeChat.

All the rentable bikes in Shanghai are viable options, so unless you have a pass for Hello Bike, it doesn’t matter too heavily which one you pick outside of personal opinion.

Now that you have your bike, I’d like to introduce two personal favorite bike paths, which you can access from right outside campus or the dorms.

River Temple Path

The “River Temple Path” is most easily accessible from the dorms. Simply follow the map out from the dorms in the same direction the shuttle goes to campus. However, instead of going onto the bridge, go under it. Under the bridge you will see a small metal spinning gate on the left. Going through this will take you to a beautiful river walk. Local residents like to spend time playing cards and fishing here; it’s quite lively during the day. You can follow the simple arrows south of the dorm to get to the entrance.

The path will require you to take some odd turns, as well as cross a bridge at one point, but by following in a straight line, you will eventually make it to the Shize Temple Stelle, a medium-sized but quite beautiful Buddhist Temple. It isn’t super busy nor touristy, so if you go during the day, you’re likely to have a very peaceful experience. This path is what you make of it, and you can stop at any point rather easily before the temple.

Bund City Path

Where the river path is rather small and quaint, the “Bund City Path” is larger and much more developed. Covering almost the entire length of the East Bund, this biking path will take you from campus or the dorms to the Oriental Pearl Tower. Although this path does not start at any particular point, it’s very easy to get onto and accessible from many points. This bike path is completely separate from the road. It features a running lane and two lanes for which direction you’re biking. You can follow this path north or south, but I highly recommend biking north for great river and city views during the day and the night. The path features bridges built specifically for the bikes, which light up come evening. Simply go west from campus and start from the purple ‘X’.

Be warned–the path is very long, stretching over 20km, so I would not recommend going all the way unless you have a lot of time. Additionally, you can get off at any point, take a drink from the many vending machines, or even take a break at the many checkpoint buildings along the path specifically for bikers. This is the first and only time I’ve seen a bike pack with checkpoints featuring vending machines, chairs, and of course, air conditioning/heaters. So do take advantage of them if you get the chance! This path has been my favorite way to see the city, so make sure to break away from the path if you’re confident you can find it again.

Biking is a simple joy for certain, but Shanghai has come to be one of my favorite cities I’ve biked in. So I highly recommend taking full advantage of it while you have the chance! Even if it’s just for an hour or two after class is out, it’s always right there outside the door.