AFTER getting off work at nearly 8pm, Lisa Tseng had a salad and a turkey sandwich and quickly got dressed for her daily jogging exercise near Jing’an Temple, the neighborhood where she lives.
Tseng, 26, who works in an advertising company, runs religiously. At first she did it for exercise but then got hooked.
“Time passes faster when I run in the city. After that, I feel relaxed and have a sound sleep,” she says.
Nonetheless, after running outside for three years, Tseng decided to resort to running on treadmills in gyms.
“There are so many people in downtown Shanghai and the traffic is a bit terrifying. And you get interrupted by others walking into you all the time, especially when I run in the evening,” she tells Shanghai Daily.
For an increasing number of joggers in Shanghai, the city isn’t runner-friendly, with all the pollution and traffic, particularly in the city center.
But now for Tseng and many other runners in Jing’an District, there might be good news. Recently, officials at the Jing’an land planning and management bureau unveiled a proposal for running facilities in the area.
Under the plan, downtown Jing’an District would reconstruct some streets and set aside parts of others as running routes for joggers. The speed and flow of vehicles would be limited in certain areas for two hours at midday (11:30am-1:30pm) and again in the evening (7pm–9pm).
“We’ve found that running or trotting with city views is increasingly loved by the white-collar workers,” says Shi Yu, secretary of the Youth League Branch of Jing’an land planning and management bureau.
“Many people run between the street and sidewalk,” he notes, calling it “quite a big safety hazard.”
Three main jogging areas would be formed around Nanjing Road W., Julu Road and Changhua Road. Streets selected as running routes all have relatively less traffic, better greenery and wider streets. As a bonus, when people jog on the routes, they will pass by many historical buildings and parks including Jing’an Park, Moller Villa and Shanghai Exhibition Center.
But some joggers are skeptical.
“I don’t think it will work,” says Ashley Hung, account manager for digital marketing at a foreign company. Hung lives on Nanyang Road, a small street close to Nanjing Road W., but she never runs there. Instead, the 25-year-old would rather get up early and go to People’s Square for exercise.
“I can’t bear the traffic in Jing’an. Even not on the main roads, there are so many cars, bicycles and motorcycles that might crush you,” she says, adding that she has doubts when the new running rules and regulations will come out and whether anybody will follow them.
“My friends and I once planned to run in Jing’an Sculpture Park, but you can see an elevated road around, and that makes me feel uncomfortable, like some brooding heaviness descended on me because it’s too close,” she says.
Kelvin Hua, 30, a freelance writer who lives on Changping Road, endorses the idea.
“I never run, but still it would be great to have some tailored jogging routes near home. Maybe then I can finally do some sports. I can run, jog or lurch along,” he says.
The only thing that worries Hua is whether the running routes would bring massive numbers of joggers, making the area no longer a quiet living community.
The proposal has yet to be approved by the district government. No timetable was given about when the decision might be made. Some officials are taking a wait-and-see approach about the improvements.
“If the district’s move of sparing more areas for running works, I will apply for fiscal support on plastic running paths so that citizens won’t get hurt,” says Yu Biao, chief of the Jing’an sports bureau.
Yu notes that Jing’an District has the fewest sports facilities and infrastructure in the city. “Jing’an has no space for new stadiums, so sparing more streets for running routes is a good idea. It is easy to promote and be accepted by the locals,” he says.
Still, there remain problems that must be solved to implement the plan. The reconstruction cost is going to be very high. And street space is very limited, meaning that when the running path is done there will be nearly no place for cycling, or sidewalks.
Currently, the Expo area and Century Park are the best running areas in Shanghai. “The loop is nice, and their environment are much better than other areas in Shanghai,” says Henry Li, 29, an experienced runner in Shanghai.
For John McCarthy, a PE teacher at Shanghai International United School, a cluttered footpath and busy streets are not a problem. He describes Shanghai as a “street-runners’ paradise.”
“Adventure runners can dodge cars, weave in and out of traffic, down alleys, through the back doors of restaurants, over a fence, and through a park, much like a real-life video game,” a free-spirited McCarthy says earnestly.
McCarthy came to Shanghai four years ago and the bona fide runner enjoys the city’s running environment. “I am loving running events and groups here in Shanghai. It seems like there is a race or event every weekend,” he says.
Like many joggers in the city, he cites air quality as the main problem.
“I check the AQI (air quality index) multiple times a day, and if it is over 150 I try not to run,” he says. “It’s an adjustment. I used to check the weather forecast, but now I am checking the air quality. In addition I find myself hoping for rain, because it usually means that the air quality is better.”