Public transport or E-bike taxis: the implication of everyday mobilities in contemporary China


Hua Xia

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - asia, place - urban, mode - subway/metro, mode - taxi, mode - bike, organisation - governance, land use - impacts, land use - urban design, land use - planning


E-bike, public transport, informal transport, everyday life, China


In the past twenty years, China’s cities have witnessed tremendous public transport development and a growing number of E-bikes on the road. Addressing the existence of E-bike taxis around metro stations, very few studies go beyond the discussion of transport issues to investigate how public transport development leads to E-bike taxis around metro stations and how the broader context of contemporary China influences this process. Through an ethnographic investigation at a suburban metro station in Shanghai, this article shows that the mismatch between public transport and land development, the spatial fragmentation of transport governance, and incompatible street network and space are three issues brought by fast public transport development, which pave the way for E-bike taxis. In addition, this article shows that the emergence of socially and economically disadvantaged groups in China’s fast urbanization and the booming Online to Offline (O2O) business are two important contextual reasons for the enduring E-bike taxi activities around metro stations. This article calls for a comprehensive review of China’s urban development and social-spatial transformation to understand the perplexing social processes behind the everyday practices of E-bike taxis. It also highlights urban infrastructure space as a mobile ‘public domain’ where ordinary people challenge the authorities.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.