Cycling around West Lake

Bicycle culture may be slowly disappearing from larger Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, but travelers in scenic Hangzhou can easily avoid the hellishness of increasing car traffic and get a taste of traditional Chinese cycling culture.

Here are three scenic, peaceful routes to get started on.

1. Broken Bridge and Su Causeway (断桥与苏堤)
Start: Sha Nian Gong bike station, at Huancheng Xi Lu and Beishan Lu
End: Su Di Nan Kou bike station on Nanshan Lu, south end of Su Causeway
Distance: 5.4 kilometers
Starting with Hangzhou's iconic, lake-traversing causeway, this route travels across the famed Broken Bridge, onto Gushan Island, where you can visit numerous museums, nature trails and the renowned Louwailou restaurant, which specializes in Hangzhou cuisine.

Next, ride toward the much longer and more serene Su Di Causeway, whose entire tree-lined length runs across West Lake. This area offers a multitude of rewarding photo ops while traversing stone arch bridges.

2. Hidden West Lake (神秘西湖)
Start: Huagang Xi Men bike station, across from Huagang Restaurant
End: Huanglong Lu Shuguang Lu Kou bike station, at Huanglong Lu and Shuguang Lu
Distance: 9.7 kilometers
From the south end of Yanggong Di, you could easily bike straight up this winding lakeside causeway and enjoy plenty of idyllic scenery beside the road.

But to truly capture the mystic appeal of West Lake's quietest and most forested corners, head west off the main road and get lost amongst hidden paths, imperial tombs and temples and manicured gardens fit for an empress.

After emerging back into clamorous civilization at Yanggong Di's north end, continue north onto Shuguang Lu, taking note of the many cafés, bars and top-notch restaurants you'd like to sample.

Find the bike stall near Yellow Dragon Stadium and backtrack on foot to explore the range of Thai, French, Spanish, Mexican and Jiangnan restaurants on Baishaquan Alley.

3. Quyuan Fenghe to Temple of Soul's Retreat (曲院风荷到灵隐寺)
Start: Quyuan Fenghe bike station, near corner of Beishan Lu and Yanggong Di
End: Temple of Soul's Retreat (Lingyin Si) bike station
Distance: 3.6 kilometers
From West Lake's northwest corner, ride west down Lingyin Lu toward Lingyin Si, one of Hangzhou's (and China's) largest Buddhist temples, but not before taking a detour to lush Hangzhou Botanical Park (杭州植物园).

Continuing west down Lingyin Lu provides a minor uphill challenge. The effort is a small price to pay for reaching what is arguably the most beautiful and well-maintained Buddhist temple in China, replete with an imposing 20-meter, gold-plated Siddhartha Guatama Buddha.