Recently, I discovered bicyclists in Beijing could no longer have an extra passenger in the back.
While I understood the safety rationale behind the move, I couldn’t help feeling it was the end of an era. After all, some of my fondest memories with Jun happened while I was riding on the back of his bicycle in Shanghai.
We dubbed the bike our “official car”, and Jun would use it to pick me up when I would arrive late in the evening from business trips outside the city. I would message him when I was about 10 or 15 minutes from the subway stop near our apartment, and then he would pedal over and wait for me. No matter how exhausted I might have been, the thought of Jun and our humble little bicycle made me bound up those subway stairs with a bounce in my step.
He would always immediately take my bags for me and place them in the basket, and then I would settle myself on the platform behind his seat, and hug him with my arms. Riding with him was like an extended embrace in a sense, and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It was romantic, but with a purpose. After all, you had to hold on to the person pedaling the bicycle for safety.
I think I liked these trips even better because, honestly, Jun didn’t need to pick me up like that. Our apartment was only about four blocks from the subway and could easily be reached in a 10 or 15 minute walk. But Jun insisted on meeting me with that bicycle, regardless. He never made any grand declarations in the process, but he didn’t have to — the whole thing was an act of love.
I understand why things have changed in Beijing. And those changes come at a critical time when motorized vehicles, including scooters, rule the roads, not bicycles.
But this reality makes those memories of riding on the back of Jun’s bicycle all the more precious to me.
Have you ever ridden on the back of someone’s bicycle? Was it ever a romantic experience to you?
Photo credit: By 齐健 from Peking, People’s Republic of China – Down the Hutong, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18200257