the world wide web is a little restricted over here. from beijing, i can't access the bbc's website (though i can get to cnn; or the abc); and i can't see any blogs at blogspot.com.
but i have just found i can post! so i send this out there blindly
beijing is cold and smoggy (on days with no wind it thickens and the light becomes a brown-y orange). the pollution is unbelievable; it feels like you're losing a few years from your lifespan simply through breathing it in. worse is that beijing itself is cleaner than other areas - hard to believe when you first arrive, but travelling out west the smog actually increases. they've cleaned up the beijing area a lot - which means that the industrial factories are still pumping away, just not as near as they once were.
it's rare though to see people wearing breathing masks; in fact, those i have seen wear them are the street sweepers. cyclists usually don't - though this could be because of the time of year; maybe it's worse at other times.
and it really is bike city! there are thousands, millions of bikes! but there are also thousands of cars and trucks. no one bothers with indicators, or at times brakes - people just duck and weave through traffic, sounding a horn now and then, stopping traffic and doing a u-turn in the middle of the road if they make a mistake. it's bizarre and alarming at first, but there are very very few crashes. there are often bike lanes. and i know it's wrong but NO ONE WEARS HELMETS!!! ah, the freedom! i had forgotten that feeling. just jump on your bike and ride away, hair streaming out behind you...loving it.
bikes are cheap and usually oldish; they normally make a clanking sound, whether it's an old mudguard (pretty much all bikes have them) or a wire basket or whatever. also surprising is that most bikes are what at home are girls bikes - without that middle bar. and few have gears. but the city's flat so you don't need them.
will try and post photos if this works -