On our last day in Beijing, we rented bikes to see the city from the point of view of the average bicycling Beijinger. We rode around the city for nearly five hours and it was glorious. It had rained the previous day, liquefying the smog, so Friday was a clear blue-skied day. Beijing is extremely flat, which was good since our bikes didn’t have any gears, and pedaling was easy, often propelling us faster than the cars mired in traffic. All of the streets had bicycle lanes, making it relatively easy to traverse the city.
Throughout the ride, I was trying to find a way to summarize Beijing, but it was difficult. The city is big and diverse. The hutongs are village-like, some streets are ugly, broad, and marred with construction, others are quaint and tree-lined, and in the end I merely concluded that the city was itself, and I wasn’t sure what it was. After merely a week in Beijing, I couldn’t understand it in its entirety.