From Wuzhen, I took a five-hour high speed train ride via the Shanghai Hongqiao station to Qufu in order to see the sights I missed during my first trip there a couple of years ago and visit the recently opened Confucius Museum.
The museum was impressive in architectural terms and had a fine collection of Shang and Zhou dynasty ritual vessels, but the scarcity of English language descriptions of the exhibits makes it hard work for overseas visitors who are unable to read Chinese.
Transportation links from the museum aren’t that great either if (like me) you don’t have a Didi ridesharing account. Not that this ended up bothering me too much, because I was able to experience my first ever ride on an LSEV (Low Speed Electric Vehicle) when an old guy with a big smile on his face picked me up just after I had set off for my hotel on foot. While not exactly the height of luxury, the ride back to hotel certainly opened my eyes to the potential of these vehicles for affordable last-mile applications.
Strolling around the center of Qufu later, I saw a lot of these vehicles zipping around – not to mention a couple of stores selling them. Given that these electric-powered vehicles retail for less than $5,000, I see huge possibilities for them in global markets over the coming decade in both urban and rural environments, provided, of course, that safety and regulatory issues are addressed. Let’s hope that there are governments that will have the foresight and imagination to make this happen.
I certainly wouldn’t have minded access to such services when I was back in rural Lincolnshire in November this year. Unreliable fixed bus routes will never be able to meet the mobility needs of people living in the countryside, particularly for the elderly. More flexible point-to-point services using lower cost and ultimately autonomous vehicles coupled with ride-sharing apps are required.