Scuffles have started on street corners as police start to enforce the regulations in advance. No small task considering the city has 500,000 e-bike owners.
China is home to as many as 120 million e-bikes by some estimates. The new national standard for e-bikes is also called the “40-20 standard”, which means weight within 40 kilos and speed within 20 kilometers per hour.
The immediate concern is the threat to public safety posed by pelotons of scooters tearing through crowded Chinese cities on motors that, while essentially noiseless, are capable of speeds up to 40 kilometers per hour.
The bikes accounted for 15.7 percent of all road accidents in the city in 2010. Police trucks piled high with confiscated bikes are becoming commonplace. Many e-bikes are heavier and more powerful than the standard but are lauded by environmentalists for being emission-free and were welcomed by traffic management bureaus for taking up relatively little space on the country’s increasingly sclerotic urban roadways.
However here we have a typical heavy handed reaction to a problem. Regular petrol powered motorcycles and scooters patrol the same streets and alleys as the e-bikes.
These are not subject to control however but are considered safer as they are not quiet. So the obvious solution would seem to be to fit noise emitters to e-bikes.
When I was a kid with a pedal bike, these were simply ice cream sticks attached to the spokes with a rubber band. A licensed product, just as simple and effective, could make a low cost affordable solution to the e-bike problem. For those willing to splash out an electric noise emitter would be a simple addition.
With manufacturers and retailers unwilling to play by the rules, Shenzhen authorities may feel like an outright ban was the only option left. However it seems highly unlikely Chinese e-bike riders, a population that includes everyone from students; to white collar workers; to the country’s stunningly efficient tribe of express delivery bike messengers, will accept a ban quietly. Not forgetting of course, that’s a big e-bike waste mountain!