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In this paper, we present the characteristics of a vehicular ad hoc network (VANET), which is the Shanghai urban vehicular network (SUVnet). We construct a mobility model using the GPS data collected from more than 4000 taxis in Shanghai. The model is both realistic and large scale. Based on this model, network topology and connectivity of SUVnet are studied. Because of the sparse distribution and dynamic topology of SUVnet, simply utilizing the conventional mobile ad hoc network routing protocols in SUVnet may not achieve a satisfactory performance. Therefore, we apply the delay-tolerant network model to SUVnet and evaluate the epidemic routing protocols. We propose a new protocol, which is the distance aware epidemic routing (DAER), to improve the bundle delivery ratio. Results show that DAER performs well for a VANET. This paper provides a basis in studying a realistic urban VANET.