Transportation is one of the most serious challenges facing Beijing today. Bicycles have always been popular and benefit from the mostly flat terrain. Recent estimates have put the number in Beijing at 10,000,000 or higher. Unfortunately they have now become a problem as they significantly increase traffic congestion. The alternatives aren’t really any better. The buses are over crowded, used mainly by the poorer workers, while the taxis can be expensive and must contend with traffic.
Fortunately new options have sprung up. Scooters are an inexpensive alternative to automobiles. They are very popular although they have been restricted from many main roads. The Miandis are 5-passenger vans that are cheaper than taxis and the Jitneys are 15-passenger vehicles which were introduced 20 years ago. They have become so popular that they now represent more than half of the rush hour congestion at main intersections. Beijing also has an extensive subway system although crowding can be a problem at some locations on national holidays. With a daily ridership of over 5,000,000, almost 100 miles of track, and one of the lowest costs for any major city worldwide, it is great option for hutong commuters.
Most popular are the pedicabs, also known as rickshaws. Tourists enjoy them. In fact, 140,000 use them annually to enjoy leisurely trips through the hutong. They also rent bicycles and use the newly re-introduced trolleys. Finally, due to traffic congestion, travel time by car has increased dramatically. This has made living here a convenient and attractive alternative to commuting. Ironically, the narrowness of the lanes favors pedestrians, and even after 900 years, makes walking one of the most practical forms of transportation in the hutong.