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Hundreds of miles of high quality bike and pedestrian pathways in 2010 in Guangzhou area have laid the groundwork for even more ambitious plans.


aoorw From the Spring 2012 American Trails Magazine


China launches Pearl River Delta Greenway Network

By Steve Han

In August 2009, the government of Guangdong Province, China, announced the first greenway project in this country’s history– a major greenway network to serve the population of the greater Shenzhen region in southern China. This is an urban and rural area with over 25 million inhabitants.

photo of red paved bike trail

Red paving on the new greenway, Shenzhen region in southern China

Also known as the Guangdong Greenway, the Pearl River Delta Greenway Network Plan called for building a regional network of over 1,000 miles with six branches of inter-city routes networking 200 forest, parks, natural conversation areas, and scenic spots. The system would link both city and countryside.

The Governor of Guangdong Province emphasized that the project must take shape within one year, establish a complete framework in the second year, and significantly advance in the third year. The intention is for the Guangdong Greenway to become a demonstration project both for the region and for the whole of China.

The greenway vision includes three major elements:

• Ecological greenways
• Rural greenways
• Urban greenways

At this point significant progress has been made with many miles of trails, dozens of trailheads, and fourteen trail “inns” completed. In addition, over 150,000 trees and shrubs have been planted and over 80 acres of trailside green areas have been created.

photo of Africans biking on trail

Foreign students riding rental bikes on a section of China’s new greenway

The trail system includes six main line routes ranging in length from 70 to 280 miles. In addition, the routes will connect 216 “improvement nodes” that include various public facilities and resorts.

In conjunction with the core system, there are numerous branch trails being planned and built simultaneously by local governments and municipal authorities, ultimately completing a total system length of over 1,300 miles and connecting nine cities. The aim is for any citizen in the region to have access to a route within a 15-minute walk.

The components of greenway network include five subsystems:

1. Green corridors, which are mainly green belts;

2. Multi-use trails;

3. Interconnections via ferry facilities;
4. Service facilities including inns, bed and breakfasts, and other lodging;

5. Like the other major public infrastructure developments in China, this greenway is run by the government. Mr. Wang Yang, the governor of Guangdong Province, is the leader and top decision maker for this project.

photo of men on yellow bicycles

Top governors of Guangdong Province, including Mr. Wang Yang, on the trail

As a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese government, he has been advocating for switching toward a more sustainable development of the economy. Indeed, more and more officials have reached a consensus that, along with growth, there have been serious consequences impacting China’s environment, ecology, and society, and that this must change.

The planning work for the Greenway has been directly led and coordinated by the government of Guangdong Province, and executed by the Guangdong Province Housing and Urban-Rural Construction Department together with municipal agencies.

In the fundraising realm, the Government of Guangdong requires municipalities and agencies to contribute local public funds. Funding has also come from state-run and private enterprises, including many large companies. This is a typical aspect of project funding. It should be noted that the budget for this project has not been publicized.

As is the usual practice, all construction is coordinated by the lead agencies. Because of the massive workload and the limited time period, heavy equipment was used for construction.

photo of paved trail in park

A section of the Shenzhen Shore Pathway runs through a park

At this time, operations and maintenance programming for the Greenway are being developed. Obviously for the key agencies that take on these tasks, such as the Bureau of Parks and Woods, a project this massive will be challenging. In addition, a recent Web news commentary raised concerns that some trailheads, path surfacing, and trees along trails have been vandalized. As yet there are no volunteer groups or NGO’s participating. Generally the concept and development of NGOs in China are in the initial stages.

On the promotion front, the government has engaged TV, newspapers, and the Internet to introduce the
greenway to citizens and organizes all kinds of events to promote the project. But until now many city residents have no idea what the greenway is.

At this point, however, guide documentations have been compiled and published by Housing and Urban-Rural Construction Department. These documents are another first in China.

In addition to the Pearl River Delta Greenway there are other activities relative to the National Trail System in China. For example, the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) has been cooperating with local governments since 2009 on a number of projects part of what is referred to as the “National Trail System.”

photo of machines digging

The photo at right shows construction on the Zhuhai greenway section. This 2.5-mile segment cost $1.2 Million and engaged 300 employees and heavy equipment involved with a 20-hour working day.

CMA has formulated their own trail authentication standards and several trails have been put into service, such as the Ninghai National Trail System in Zhejiang Province. But until now, there is no universally applicable act or bill in China specifically for trails and greenways.

Steve Han is a trails and greenway advocate and currently Visiting Professor of Finance and Economics at Tianjin University, which includes engagement in the Outdoor Recreation Resource Planning Project. He lives in Jinan City, China.

For more information on bike projects in China visit

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