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More than a ban needed to make electric bikes meet requirements

China Daily | Updated: 2016-04-05 08:12

THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF SHENZHEN, South China's Guangdong province, has banned electric bicycles and tricycles that do not meet the national standards from April 1. But going by the national standards formulated 17 years ago that limit the speed of electric bikes and tricycles to 20 kilometers an hour, 90 percent of such bikes and tricycles today would be disqualified as their top speed varies between 50 and 70 km an hour. The Beijing News commented on Saturday:

It is necessary to strengthen regulation of electric bikes and tricycles because their brakes are not powerful enough to match their speed. As a result, these dangerous yet convenient modes of transport are responsible for a considerable number of accidents.

In just 10 days, the public security department of Shenzhen put more than 800 people under administrative detention for refusing to hand over their "substandard" electric bikes or tricycles, and many of those were low-income commuters or couriers. Some local authorities even issued a notice awarding the law enforcers 500 yuan ($77) for every person they detained.

The design, production, registration, sales, use and recycling of electric bikes and tricycles are not properly supervised. To solve these problems, however, the authorities only target users while turning a blind eye to the designers, manufacturers, retailers and the transport watchdogs. Perhaps local governments should draw a lesson from the resistance law enforcers encounter from users when confiscating the illegal bikes.

If users cannot buy electric bikes that meet the national standards - simply because very few are available in the market - what can they possibly do? Some couriers can only use three-wheelers to deliver packages, because the cost of using a car is too high for them and many of them do not have driving licenses. For commuters living far from bus routes and subways, electric bikes are the best choice given their speed and low-usage costs.

A ban is the easiest, if not rudest, way of governance. A well-regulated electric bike industry, registration system and market will benefit all parties. Electric bikes will become safer on roads and couriers will not have to worry about their transport.

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