“The traffic rules can be a hassle. We have to get around fast or the customers complain,” Wang Jinchun, 25, a fast-food courier, said as he loaded his bike with two batteries, each the size of a large shoe box.
“But the cars are very dangerous, especially at night. Every day you feel that you are playing with your life,” Mr. Wang said, before riding off down the wrong side of a road.
Chinese cities were far more sedate when bicycles ruled the road. Electric bikes first went on sale around 1996, but remained a novelty in a sea of pedaled bicycles.
Beijing now has 5.6 million motor vehicles on its roads, even with restrictions on new sales. The city has up to 2.5 million electric bicycles, and sales have reached 300,000 each year, said Ms. Guo, of the bicycle association. There are also hundreds of thousands of unregistered three-wheeled electric scooters, although the government tried in effect to ban them in 2014.
In a long navy dress and a white bonnet, a Mennonite mother sits on the bed in a small room off the kitchen, describing her family’s encounters with the healthcare system. She describes how once she visited a gastroenterologist seeking a diagnosis, but not treatment. Depending on the case, the community might prefer to spend its money on a farm for a young married couple, rather than on medication or testing, she explains. “We give doctors headaches,” she says, apologetically. “I feel compassion for them.”
House says that non-Plain Americans “are finally figuring out that in our healthcare system resources are finite and everything costs somebody something”. Plain communities, he says, understand that because they pay for their care. In his experience, autonomy to the general American public means, “I get whatever interventions I want or need, and I get however much I want or need, regardless of the cost.” Plain communities on the other hand “are very independent, which is part of their autonomy”. They want to know how diseases develop and what they can do themselves to prevent a disease or its progression.
“They’re like dream diabetic patients,” says House, “because they want to do whatever they can” − whether it’s eating better or exercising more − to improve their condition and lessen their reliance upon medication.