Tsinghua University, A Sea Of Spokes – By April Warren

As Zhu Liang Wenxuan finished packing his three bulging suitcases and prepared to travel overnight by train to what would be his home for the next four years, one necessity was still missing from his school supply list – a bicycle.

Two years later, like most of the 33,981 students currently attending Tsinghua University in Beijing, Zhu’s bike blends easily into the vast sea of spokes.

“It’s a necessity for school,” said Zhu, 19, from Jiagxi Province, a journalism major. “The bike is used as a tool.”

Although the University’s website does not state how many bikes are on campus, many students speculate the number stretchs to the tens of thousands.

The Tsinghua campus sprawls over 395 hectares of land making it difficult for students to walk from class to class in the 15-minute time allowance.
Li Xue, 23, a journalism graduate student from Beijing, owns a car and a bike but prefers to breeze around on two wheels rather than four.

“Because we have a lot of road and (car) speed is limited,” Li said.

According to Zhu, bikes are also convenient because roads across campus are closed during lunch and dinner hours to help cut down on traffic jams.

Traveling Tsinghua by bike is also cost effective. While the campus bus costs 1 yuan (1 yuan = 14.2 cents) per ride for students and can force passengers to wait in line for several minutes, bike parking is plentiful and each student is assigned a free parking spot in a garage under their dorm.
Although bikes are common, so is theft.

The famous Chinese saying “If you don’t climb the Great Wall you are not a true man,” has been adopted and adapted by Tsinghua students to state, “If you don’t loose a bike at the university you are not a true college student.”

By this definition Guo Chengchun, 21, a journalism major from Shanxi Province, is a true college student. At the start of school, he purchased a bike and lock for 340 yuan with money he saved from the Chinese New Year and his birthday.

Three months into the school year he parked his blue and green bike outside the dining hall by a tree and dirt hole. Although he has three locks on his bike, he decided to use the one with the least protection.
“After I ate dinner, I saw the tree and I saw the hole but I didn’t see the bicycle,” Guo said.

Li’s purple Emmani bike also suffered a similar fate. “I know it’s a commonality,” said Li. Her next bike came from a friend who was graduating and needed to get rid of her bike.

For students who can’t afford to purchase one, certificates are distributed by need for a free bicycle. Gao Song, 22, a journalism major from Heilong Province obtained his first bike for free because the organization overseeing low income families in his city determined he could not afford one on his own. On first arrival to the university, his used silver bike took him to class, the library and activities. “I was so relieved. It made me feel comfortable.”

When asked if he could chose between a car and a bike, his reply: “a bike.”