Electric bicycles have been called a “silent killer” stalking the streets and sidewalks of Shenzhen. A few years ago the bikes were banned from major highways and streets. Recently there have been calls for the licensing of these vehicles in the city. As of now the calls have been wisely rejected.
In the September 7-9, 2012 issue of the Shenzhen Daily an interview with a British citizen appeared. The Brit called for more regulations on electric bikes. He pointed out that the bikes are fast and silent. He said that their drivers often ignore rules of the road. He said the drivers are not civil and act irresponsibly. Finally he said he has witnessed several accidents involving the bikes and pedestrians.
While I have never read the appropriate regulations, I’m sure it is already illegal to speed, ignore stop lights, ride on sidewalks, go the wrong way on a road, or run down pedestrians. How will adding a licensing process help to insure these laws are followed or help enforce the already existing laws? In fact, nowhere in the interview did the interviewee state how more regulations would solve the problems with the bikes he mentioned.
How can forcing a bike rider to go to some government bureaucracy to register, probably pay some money for a tag of some kind, and kill a half a day solve anything? All it would do is waste the time and money of the riders. There are already many rules of the road that apply to cars, trucks, bikes, and other vehicles. Many, if not most, of these rules are routinely ignored. Will forcing bike riders to get a red stamp on some piece of paper makes them better drivers? I think not.
Also the interviewee said he had witnessed several non-serious accidents between bikes and pedestrians. I have lived in a very crowded lower middle class neighborhood for more that 5 years. There are bikes all over the sidewalks and streets. I have never witnessed an accident involving a bike. I’m not saying that accidents never happen, surely they do. I’m saying I’ve been lucky not to have been involved in any way.
The China Daily estimated there were a half million electric bikes in Shenzhen in 2011. There are probably a few more today. If each of these half million drivers is forced to spend a half day registering their bike, it comes to 250,000 eight hour days lost from productive labor. If the registration process only takes two hours, that is still 125,000 working days lost. These days could be spent doing something far more rewarding than standing in line at a government office. Never mind the fees that are sucked out of the economy.
Additionally, by adding the burden of registration to owning an electric bike may discourage some from purchasing one. This would harm a home grown industry in China during a time of economic slow down.
If e-bikes are registered and licensed, what will be next? Pedal powered bikes are just as silent, and can go almost as fast. Will they be the next project for well meaning do-gooders to help insure life involves absolutely no risk from anything? What a sterile world that would be.