Out of the 20 worst cities in the world in terms of air quality, 16 of them are located in China. Years ago, the country tried to fix the problem, however, it did not go as planned. Instead, China wound up with a new problem it would have to resolve, which an artist accidentally discovered. At first, he thought might be flower fields. They turned out to be something else entirely.
China Wanted To Fix Their Air Pollution Problem
Years ago, Chinese officials wanted to do something to help the country's horrible air pollution. The first step: figuring out how to get rid of the massive number of vehicles on the road each day.
The gas-power vehicles weren't helping the already-poor air quality, smog, or anyone's health, for that matter.
The Plan Backfired
Sadly, their plan took a turn for the worse, and instead of reducing air pollution, they wound up unintentionally increasing pollution in general. Now, China has colorful fields that look like gorgeous flowers from above.
But once a person gets down to ground level, the fields are something else entirely.
Fields Of Forgotten Waste
When photographer Mathias Guillin saw these strange fields with his own eyes, he could not help but document the experience and share it with others. It was unlike anything he had seen before.
Even more astounding was the sheer scale of something that had been kept under wraps for years.
The Volume of Vehicles is Mind Numbing
In large cities such as Beijing, China, the number of cars, buses, and other motorized vehicles on the road is astounding. Other metropolitan areas, such as New York, favor public transportation or even walking.
But this particular city enjoys the convenience of its own vehicles. Sadly, the convenience for the population is very inconvenient for the environment.
The Favored Mode Of Transportation Used To Be Bicycles
The thing is, the popularity of motorized vehicles in China is fairly recent. For decades, the favored mode of transportation was by bicycle. It was an easy and reliable way to get around.
That is until the '90s hit, and China wanted to become more modernized when it came to its transportation.
Bikes Were Out And Cars Were In
In the 90s, government officials wanted to popularize the use of motorized cars in favor of bicycles. The automotive industry was booming, and they did not want to be left out of potential revenue.
As it turned out, the people did not really have an issue with the change. Both public and private transportation became increasingly popular.
It Did Not Take Long For Cars To Become More Popular
By the mid-2000s, vehicles actually surpassed bicycles as the preferred method of getting around. Unfortunately, the switch did not come without issues. All of a sudden, cities such as Shanghai and Beijing were overrun with cars, causing major traffic and, ultimately, accidents.
It did not help that people did not trust public transportation, either.
People Preferred Their Own Transportation
With irregular schedules and having to rely on someone, more and more people were ditching public transportation in favor of their own cars. This caused even more traffic in major areas. It was a nightmare!
And the SARS breakout had people avoiding the close quarters of trains and buses.
Traffic Was A Huge Issue
The number of cars on the road was insane. People would sit in traffic for hours, not moving more than a block or two at a time. Something had to be done that would appease the masses.
Thankfully, a solution arose from a group of university students who were putting a project together.
Ofo Made Bicycles Popular Again
Starting as nothing more than a small university project, the company Ofo soon took over the streets of China as one of the leading bike-share companies. Soon, people were ditching their cars and once again favoring bicycles as their main mode of transportation.
It was even a segue for more companies to make their way to China.
Bike Share Became A Huge Trend
People loved resorting back to bicycles and "simpler times" when vehicles did not take over the streets. The hope was with more people opting to ride bicycles around, the air would clear up, and the smog would go away.
For a small fee, people were able to ride wherever they wanted and leave the bicycle at their destination for someone else to use. It was perfect!
Fleets Of Bikes Were Sent To China
With the hope that more people would hop on the bicycle trend, companies were soon sending over fleets of bicycles for the Chinese people to utilize. This way, there were enough to go around, and cars would become a thing of the past.
Now, the air would clear, and the smog would disappear! Or, that was the goal.
Sadly, nothing changed. Cars still dominated the roads all throughout China, just with the added bonus of having bicycles on the streets, too. Due to the sheer numbers on each road, though, sharing the road became dangerous.
Bicycles ditched the roads for the sidewalks, endangering and annoying those who opted to walk. No one was winning.
Riding Bikes Became Inconvenient
Since the roads were completely overrun by vehicles and sidewalks were starting to have signs saying people could not ride their bicycles there, riding them became more and more of an inconvenience.
People who wanted to resort back to riding a bicycle pretty much gave up; for some reason: riding a bicycle became overly complicated.
Cars Once Again Dominated The Roads
Once again, bicycles became a thing of the past. The thing is, this time, there were so many bicycles on China's streets that they had nowhere to go.
They were left to the elements, taking up entire sidewalks and even, in some locations, spilling into the streets. Bicycles had become nothing more than litter.
Solution One: Evenly Disperse Them Throughout The Cities
Of course, cities could not have people avoiding sidewalks, stepping into yards, or the street because bicycles were taking up the walkway. Something had to be done.
Officials came up with a solution. They hired workers to neatly stack the bicycles into trucks and evenly disperse them throughout the cities.
The Plan Did Not Work
While it was a good thought, there were just so many bicycles that it did not exactly work as initially planned. Bicycles were still overrunning sidewalks and other places throughout the cities.
Something had to be done, or the cities were at risk of being overtaken by unsightly piles of bicycles.
Solution Two: Relocate The Bikes
Sadly, the sudden decrease in bike share popularity spelled financial disaster for many companies. They were not exactly willing to use their resources to pick up the bicycles from their respective "graveyards."
So, there was only one thing the city officials could think to do: completely relocate the bicycles.
The Bikes Were Moved To Remote Areas
Instead of leaving the bicycles in the cities, officials decided the best course of action was to relocate the bikes to remote areas. It was a temporary solution until they found a more permanent fix for the issue.
The thing is, they never came up with another solution after they dumped the bikes.
The Colorful Fields Are Actually The Dicarded Bicycles
As a result, the bicycles were left to rot in various places all across China. The colorful lines of bicycles look like flower fields from up above. In reality, they're a pile of forgotten waste.
The massive number of bicycles were taking up land and serving no purpose for anyone or anything. They were just forgotten.
Photographer Mathias Guillin Captured The Landscape
Photographer Mathias Guillin stumbled upon the forgotten sea of bicycles and decided to capture the sight. The sheer quantity of bicycles in one place was insane—a reminder of the transportation failure that occurred across Chinese cities.
Using a crone camera, Guillin was able to showcase the landscape in its current, colorful form.
He Made The Miles Of Pollution Look Beautiful
With different angles and depths, Guillian made the wasteful landscape look like something else altogether -- something artistic and beautiful instead of a bicycle graveyard left and forgotten by the people.
Amazingly, he took something horrible and made it look beautiful, a colorful image that almost looked like an intricate painting.
He Made The Colorful Fields Artistic-Looking
The once-promising bike-share program was now a reminder of how poorly it wound up in China, with bicycles littering the streets, overflowing to the country. That is, as long as a person sees the bicycles from the ground level.
As an artist, Guillian saw something else.
From Above, It Looked Like A Painting
He saw a sea of bicycles, colorful and masterfully placed in a field, creating intense designs. At least, if a person was open enough to reimagine was was essentially mass pollution.
Looking like an impressionist painting, Guillian was able to take something disheartening and make it look complex, thoughtful, and beautiful.
A Solution Became An Epic Problem
Sadly, there are still no plans to remove the bicycles from the Chinese fields. The bike-share companies are at a loss on how to remove the sheer quantity of bicycles.
So, for now, they lay and wait for someone to remove them from the vast fields they were left in.