One of China’s most successful economic cities will be banning electric bicycles, reported the China Daily.
Shenzhen, situated just north of Hong Kong was one of the first economic zones set up for export from China to the west, and by some measures is considered one of the most successful cities in China.
It’s teeming ports are the third largest in China after Shanghai and Hong Hong, and workers come and go on electric bikes, scooters, and in lesser and lesser numbers every day, human powered bicycles.
But now officials have placed a six-month ban on electric bicycles, deeming them too dangerous in traffic for pedestrians and regular cyclists.
The measure is to go into effect on June 30th, with oral warnings at first, followed by fines of 200 yuan or $31 each time a person is caught using an electric bicycle. The irony is that according to reports from the China Daily, few people there are planning to obey the new law.
The measures by the Chinese officials points to the growing realization that between human powered bicycles and cars, there is little room for anything else. But some people feel that if that is the case, maybe cars should be banned instead.
This same contradiction appears to be coming true in New York City where we reported this month that a huge underground of delivery personnel using illegal electric bikes has grown exponentially in the city, possibly contributing to the growing speed, and danger of the bikes to pedestrians and other cyclists. But assuredly those dangers are worse given the crowded nature of the city, and the number of motor vehicles, which far outnumber bicycles of any kind.
The new measures in Shenzhen also point up a number of inherent contradictions for local government. For one, the city is one of the biggest producers of electric bikes in the world, and possibly also one of the biggest users, with a reported 500,000 on the roads today.
According to Shenzhen traffic police bureau, last year 64 people were killed and 233 were injured in 268 accidents caused by e-bikes. The bikes accounted for 15.7 percent of all road accidents in the city in 2010.
Apparently other cities in China are watching to see how the temporary ban works out, including Quanzhou and Xiamen in the Fujan province, and Chengdu, the largest city in the Sichuan province, because they are also considering bans.
But some people powered bicycle riders are in favor of the ban, such as Hu Xiaolin, 31, who said that her right ankle was broken by a speeding electric bicycle.
Another Shenzhenite agreed, saying the electric bikes are very fast, and heavier, like “moving bombs.” “Of course it provides convenience to a group of people, but the fact is it brings more danger to the rest. I totally agree with the ban,” said Maybah2011, an online commentator to the China Daily.
Still the rules stand to make fools of all the new electric bike users, who have no intention of giving them up. Like Shang Rupeng who said, “I bought an electric bicycle last June and now it’s my major transport tool. The buses are too crowded during rush hours. It’s often very awkward for me, especially in summer. I hate the feeling of being sucked into the crowds, with other people’s bodies pasted to mine.”
Chen Liangliang, 27, also doesn’t buy the safety reasons being touted by the authorities. “If they look at figures, they would find the number of motor vehicle accidents is at least five times higher than non-motor ones. According to their logic, why don’t they ban all the cars?”
The China Daily source did not provide the number of motorists that now cram into Shenzhen’s streets. Cars have become a major traffic source in China, replacing many roads which were once the domain of cyclists, and indeed, running cyclists off the road.
What’s more, Shenzhen has a big stake economically in electric bikes, so the contradiction that they might ban them may be laughable to some: Out of the 1,000 factories in China that produce electric bicycles, 200 are in Shenzhen. Annual output of Shenzhen’s e-bike industry is valued at 1.6 billion yuan, or approximately $247 million.
Total output of electric bicycles being produced in China grew by 33% from 2009 to 2010, from 22.2 million, to 29.5 million.
Local delivery companies have articulated to the China Daily that they cannot give up their electric bikes without a severe impact on their business. And private residents report that they have no intention of giving up their new form of transport that in some cases cost them an entire month’s wages, or about 2400 yuan.
Most disturbing in the China Daily account is that electric bikes though manufactured to go only about 20 miles per hour are quickly and easily rigged to go much faster. And that buyers of the bikes are only interested in them because they can get to their destination quicker than a normal bike. The electric bikes are also heavier.
In other words, the evidence suggests that the electric bikes are not being used like bicycles but like scooters–the same way they are being used in New York City.