Bit by bit, Jacob Jorgensen, kneeling on the ground, gradually wipes the dirt from a bicycle in front of him.
Jacob and four colleagues from Denmark were working as bike washers and mechanics yesterday for local bike riders.
They did not get paid but they were happy.
“It’s a great joy to see people have their bikes cleaned or fixed,” Jorgensen said in fluent Chinese. “Riding bicycles should be a beautiful scene along the city streets.”
He hailed passersby in Chinese and even in Shanghai dialect to attract riders. He learned Chinese in a university in neighboring Jiangsu Province.
The group, all staff at the Odense Pavilion, went onto a Shanghai street, near Liyuan Park in Luwan District, cleaning and fixing locals’ bikes for free.
“We hope to let more people know the benefits of riding bikes instead of cars in daily life,” said Morten Luxhoi, one of the organizers of the event.
Odense, birthplace of world famous storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, was the first city in Denmark to have a bicycle lane – now it has more than 510 kilometers of them.
“The bicycle is more than a means of transportation. It is a way of green and healthy life,” Luxhoi said.
China, long-time renowned as “the kingdom of bicycles,” on the other hand, is seeing a reduction in the number of bikes, especially in big cities like Shanghai as more cars hit the roads, he said.
“The cars here are way too much,” said his colleague, Jacob Lauesen.
“The city life here is too rushing for the people to really enjoy the leisure of riding a bike,” said a local retired man, surnamed Du, who appreciated the group’s work but said city life varied from country to country.
Local bike riders seemed impressed by the free service and the free Odense pavilion pin, which is popular with Expo visitors, handed out by the group.
Some people described them as the foreign equivalent of Lei Feng, the Chinese soldier who was characterized as a selfless and modest person in the 1960s.
The group cleaned, pumped up and fixed nearly 20 bikes from 10:30am to 12am.
They even hired a Chinese bike mechanic from a nearby bike-fixing stall.