China: This is too many bikes

Society & Culture

There’s a Katie Melua song called “9 Million Bicycles” that starts, “There are nine million bicycles in Beijing. / That’s a fact…”

IS IT? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. The human mind can’t comprehend big numbers — that’s a fact, you can look it up — because we are baffled by immensity, we are small and organic and the world is hard enough without some cosmic force telling us that we are but the agglomeration of 37 trillion cells, or zip-tying a bundle of thousands together and asking us to comprehend

that. Because no. I do not know what that is. Do not ask me to guess, and do not bother me with facts. I do not need to know that this is a bicycle graveyard most likely in Xiamen, Fujian Province, according to Sina Weibo user @陳禮奮-, and that the yellow represents Ofo shared bikes, and that the orange is Mobike, and that the blue is Bluegogo, or that a similar scene can be found in Hangzhou, that these are the result of a bike-sharing economy, once hailed as a true Chinese innovation, spiraled out of control, with the third-place company Bluegogo gone bankrupt, and the front-runners looking around asking what all this, any of this, is for. Marriage of death, reads this Quartz headlineMarriage or…

There are six billion people in the world.
More or less.
And it makes me feel quite small,
But you’re the one I love the most of all. 



The fact is, we will love, and we will die. Like these bicycles in Xiamen, which only wanted a face to say hi to after the dark cold night, to be more than a dot on the discard pile of an afterthought.

We don’t deserve them.