Distance Around 20km
Bike time Two-to-three hours
Difficulty Moderate – the distance is long but it’s a simple, flat route and you’ll hardly have to look at your map
Highlights Car-free riding and great views of the Grand Canal
With many government divisions set to move out here, and all manner of building and beautification projects going on, the lesser-visited Tongzhou district is slowly becoming a more intriguing place to be.
Indeed, just a few years ago, taking on this fine bike ride was a true expedition that involved a marathon cycle from the city centre. The extension of subway Line 6 and the arrival of share bikes, however, means the chance to appreciate the Tongzhou Grand Canal, Beijing’s oft-forgotten, seventh UNESCO World Heritage site, is now far more accessible. It’s perfect for a long day out, but be sure to pack a picnic and lots of water, as there’s little chance to pick up supplies en route.
Arriving at Beiyunhexi station (Line 6), head for exit B, scan and unlock the shared steed of your choice and head south on Binhezhong Lu, parallel to the west bank of the canal. Cycle until you reach a large crossroads at Yunhe Xi Dajie, take a left and cross over the bridge, then immediately hook right to reach your real starting point – the path along the east bank of the Grand Canal.
You’ll first pass through the 1 Grand Canal Ecological Park, which is seemingly a popular spot for singing and instrument-wielding pensioners, who arrive with huge speaker systems to blast their al fresco performances.
Head southwards, following the curves of the canal. You’ll pass bushes plump with fuchsia flowers and you can choose to veer off the tarmac to continue along a raised wooden-plank walkway, which cuts through wetland with reeds and lily pads.
When you get to the end of the park, you’ll have to briefly continue on the side of the main road (Beiyunhexindi Lu), crossing underneath two large road bridges (the second one is the Sixth Ring Road). At the first opportunity, turn right and re-join the tree-lined cycle path, heading south along the canal. Along this stretch, grass patches make convenient 2 picnic spots.
Around 2km further along, you will cross under another road bridge (Songliang Lu), and come to a cultural centre on your left and, on your right, a jetty sticking out into the canal. Take a moment to admire the view through the 3 traditional-style gateway by the jetty. On the other side of the canal, you’ll see a 4 moon-shaped island and pretty, old-style bridge – you’ll get there later.
Continue about 5km south along the canal, until you get to the next bridge (Wuxing Lu). You’ll have to exit the park, but the path will guide you towards the bridge, where you will cross over onto the west and arguably more demure side of the canal (barring the rickety roller coaster halfway up). Turn right when you reach a gate, and head north along the bank, following the well-paved path all the way until you reach the bridge you initially crossed. You’ll have to lug your bike up a very manageable flight of stairs to return to the crossroads and head back towards the subway station.