Category Archives: AAPI Community

Cycling with Love: Bike as Cultural Icon in China

Chengxin Xu, Seattle University

20 years ago, when cars were still considered luxury goods, almost everyone in Shanghai owned a bike, and most of them cycled everyday. That included working-age people cycling for work, elders cycling for grocery shopping, and kids cycling with their parents to school. Most kids did not have their own bikes until middle school, because for most families, bikes were still relatively expensive, and letting kids cycle on streets with other vehicles was not considered safe. Thus, kids cycling with their parents basically means kids sitting at the back or front of their parents’ bikes. I did this until I got my first bike at 14 years old. Every time when I was “cycling” with my father, I felt strongly bonded with him, physically and emotionally.

This is not only for me—cycling with parents is a shared memory of many people at my age (born in 80s). What we have in common is not only cycling but also the melancholia and yearning for our parents, who are growing old, and our childhood, which is fading away.

A Cantonese song by Eason Chan opened the gate to such feeling beautifully:

It’s hard to say goodbye. I want to hold you tight.
	We have such a long life, which seems like a wild land.
	If a kid could hold dad’s back, who wants to get off the bike?
	It’s hard to say goodbye. We always have such kind of feeling.
This is our life, and there is no way to deny.
	But no matter how cruel the world is,
	when I thought about the bike,
	I can still borrow the happiness from the good old days.

While I am crying over my childhood, parents were considered as the most significant barrier against every Asian kid’s freedom. Like other kids, I was so eager to have my own bike, so that I could go anywhere I wanted. Indeed, even with fantastic public transportation, a bike still greatly enhances people’s mobility in a city like Shanghai. Therefore, when I got a bike, I started to go wild. I felt I had finally been released. My own bike allowed me to go everywhere that I wanted but couldn’t previously—street foods and arcades. Interestingly, although I was released from my parents’ care on the bike, I unintentionally inherited the meaning of a bike—the bond between the rider and the passenger—and I transferred the bond with my parents to my girlfriends. And that is also an iconic image of love in China: while we can not afford a car, with a bike, we can still go everywhere. This was the greatest freedom in my mind.

(From the film by Chan Ho Sun: Comrades: Almost a Love Story. In the picture: Maggie Cheung Man-yuk and Leon Lai Ming)

To many Chinese at my age or older, bike is our only affordable substitute for a vehicle. Still, it drastically enhances our mobility in a city, especially in large cities such as Shanghai and Hong-Kong. With a bike, the city becomes smaller, and we can go anywhere we want with our families and loved ones, on which we build beautiful memories and unforgettable feelings. Nowadays, bike is no longer the first choice for transportation—in Shanghai, more than half of the total households own at least one car now. Recently, biking is becoming a mid-class lifestyle, which is quite similar to the fact in the U.S. However, the low-income population still relies on bikes heavily because of its convenience, efficiency, and affordability. I wish we can keep affordable bikes in the market, because that is not only an option of commuting, but also two cycles carrying family, freedom, and love for everyone to everywhere.

May’s Bicycle Story

in Honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

This reflection is from a community member, May. May originally rode her bike in Southeast China (Canton Province), and now rides with her family in Seattle. The month of May also happens to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! We hope you enjoy this story and the photos in honor of May’s family and heritage, and for all of our Asian & Pacific Islander friends, family, and neighbors. All photos courtesy of May.

Biking is so much fun to me. I always feel as free as the wind when I am riding a bike. I can also enjoy viewing the different sceneries along my ride. Biking is an effective way for me to relieve stress from work after sitting for hours in front of a computer. It is also such a good exercise that could keep me healthy and fit.

I hadn’t been biking for many years after I moved to Seattle back in 2003 since I did not know much about biking here. The roads and safety seemed to be a big challenge to me, and I felt a little bit scared. Most importantly, I did not find a group of people who could share the same interest in biking. With the addition of three young kids, my life has become so busy that I could hardly find the time or energy for my own hobbies or interests. In recent years, I have come to know more about Bike Works through their programs and activities they have been offering or hosting.

A young girl on a pink bike with a mask on

All my three kids, two teens and a 10-year-old girl, have received a free bike each from Bike Works when they were in preschool at the REWA childcare center. They were so excited after they got their own bikes and would like to keep biking and biking without a stop in our neighborhood park. My two teenage boys used to love biking so much and they would bike every day when they were younger, but they do not bike much in recent years since they have been engaged with other fun activities. I feel that they are a little more reluctant to bike with mom nowadays since they are two teenagers trying their best to be themselves now. Bike Works had the mobile repair van located in our New Holly neighborhood last year and the helpful mechanic had kindly helped my boys fix the problems of their bikes. We are so grateful to Bike Works for its being available in our neighborhood!

A silhouette of a young person on a bike by the water with the sun shining behind her A young person on a bike at the Seattle waterfront on a partly sunny day

Compared to my kids, I was not so lucky as they are in regard to having the kid’s bike available for me to use when I was in elementary school. I learned how to bike together with my big brother on my own (basically self-taught) when I was about in 5th grade. Back then we did not have any kid’s bike to use, and we had to borrow my dad’s adult bike which was my family’s only bike. My legs were way too short, and I had to make full use of the triangle that the bike had. When I was in middle school, our family finally had a second bike that was available for me and brother to use. As I grew older, I rode the bike to help carry clean water home for cooking, to commute to the fields (plot assigned to each family in the rural area to grow rice and vegetables) to help my parents grow and harvest vegetables, and to buy groceries from the market. It was not until I graduated from university and started working that I finally had my own bike. Just like my kids, I biked almost every day after work since I had my own bike. It helped a lot in relieving the stress from work. The most memorable bike ride is the one I had together with my colleague when we traveled to Yunnan Province in Southwest China. We each rented a bike and rode the bike to see the amazing field of rapeseed flowers and a historical town.

As my kids are growing bigger, it is time to pick up my biking journey again after pressing the pause button for so many years and create new biking chapters. Currently, I do not have my own bike and have been using one of my son’s bikes even though it is a little bit too small for me.  I biked in Seward Park together with my daughter and younger son often when the weather was fine last year. My daughter and I once took the link light rail to UW Station and then biked all the way back to Seward Park. Unfortunately, the small bike I have been using got stolen recently when I was standing on top of a small hill waiting for my daughter’s school bus to arrive while the bike was parked at the foot of the hill. I definitely need to get another bike as soon as possible in order to get myself back to the track of cycling again. I would like to get more involved with Bike Works in the future because the organization has such an amazing group of people ready and willing to help people who has interest or needs in biking.

Two people high-fiving from their bike saddles

May’s daughter (left) and Bike Works Recycle & Reuse Operations Manager Allie (right) high-fiving after a community ride in November 2021 in honor of Marshall “Major” Taylor.

Statement of Solidarity With Asians & Asian Americans

At Bike Works, we unequivocally condemn racism and white supremacy, in all their interpersonal and institutional forms. We are disturbed by the surge in violence directed at Asians and people of Asian descent. Anti-Asian racism is not new in this country. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to Japanese internment camps during World War II, to the deadly hate crimes perpetrated in Atlanta against Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Yong Ae Yue, Suncha Kim, Daoyou Feng, Xiaojie Tan, Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels, Asian communities have endured racism, sexism, and violence in the United States as long as they’ve been in the country. There has been a tragic increase in this type of hatred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on racist and xenophobic lies about the spread of the virus.

The need to join community leaders and organizers to support Asian American communities and combat anti-Asian hate is urgent. Some of the organizations that do this work in Seattle are Kandelia (formerly the Vietnamese Friendship Association), API Chaya, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and many others. Launch suggests this list of Asian and Pacific Islander organizations and businesses to support, as well as other resources in their statement of solidarity. We encourage support of these efforts through financial gifts, volunteerism, and event and rally support.

Seattle Times social justice columnist & assistant managing editor, Naomi Ishisaka, wrote that “Asian Americans may be too-often invisible, but we are a crucial part of the American story. Our history and experiences should be valued and taught. Anything less contributes to the dehumanization and perpetual foreigner status that leads to the kind of tragedy we saw last week in Georgia.” To learn more about Asian-American history, in Seattle and elsewhere, check out this this valuable reading list.

At Bike Works, we believe the bicycle can be a tool for equity and freedom. But this cannot be achieved unless communities impacted by racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and any other form of institutional oppression are centered and uplifted for our collective liberation. We all have work to do to make this liberation a reality. We ask that all members of our community hold us accountable to these goals by becoming involved, asking tough questions, and connecting us with other leaders doing this work for opportunities to partner and collaborate. Systemic racism doesn’t hurt us all equally, but it does hurt us all.