November 20, 2006

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Black and White on Electric Bikes

I felt like I was in a 1930s movie yesterday in Hong Kong. Mainly, because the haze and visibility were so bad that colors were simply removed from my visual spectrum. Surprisingly, the API for Sunday was only "high", despite the fact that Lantau and Lamma Islands had disappeared from my apartment window in Pokfulam, and, while I was in Tung Chung for the afternoon, a vaguely plasticine odor hung in the air. 'High', according to the Environmental Protection Department, means that there is no immediate harmful effect on health. You may only find yourself coughing up blood a few years from now after prolonged exposure (or something to that effect). Perhaps they are not putting the sensors in the right place (i.e. buried 20 feet underground).

Given my smoggy, sepia-toned palette yesterday, I was very surprised to see this article about the ban on electric bicycles in Guangzhou. I assume there must be some traffic-related reason for this, but in an age of blanket smog, surely people riding electric bicycles can't be such a bad thing? Granted, the electricity used by bikes may very well come from a coal-fired plant (but maybe it's Daya Bay). The article unfortunately, did not shed light on why the bikes were banned. Anyone out there know why?

posted by HK Dave on 11.20.06 at 11:08 AM in the China food/environment/health category.


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I believe it is the goal of the GZ government to match or exceed the traffic issues of

A couple years ago, the government cancelled any renewals of motor scooter licenses. At the same time, numerous restrictions went into place as to where and when motor scooters and motor cycles could travel in the city. Essentially, it was completely cut off. As licenses were not renewed, the government began confiscating scooters and cycles that were not licensed. There are a couple of lots in the city which are full of, literally, thousands of these rotting carcasses.

At the same time, the government began turning bicycle lanes into extra traffic lanes for cars. What were once full of bicycles and motorcycles, are now full of cars.

So...the advent of electric scooters came along and now the subsequent ban on those.

There are a couple theories as to why.

1. The local government is very bad and and does not like to enforce traffic laws. Anyone who has ever driven around GZ...can just go to Foshan or Zhuhai to see how civilized Chinese driving can truly be. Having the extra traffic of scooters, bikes, etc., just makes the problem even more problematic...when cars are the preferred method of the government.

2. Cars are the preferred method of transportation. The government earns major tax dollars on each vehicle sold. Also, given that the largest supplier of cars in GZ actually makes the cars in GZ (Honda), you have to believe there is a brother or uncle involved in that relationship somewhere.

In short...they are morons.

posted by: GZ Expat on 11.20.06 at 01:29 PM [permalink]

Shenzhen banned them about 2 or so years ago, though a scattered few can still be seen and/or deftly dodged as the operators heedlessly steer them through the crowded sidewalks.

The danger to pedestrians was the "official" reason, though Shenzhen city officials have never shown any real concern for pedestrian welfare otherwise. (See ESWN's chilling Nov. 8 "An incident in Shenzhen" in which video footage documents a city truck purposefully crushing an elderly trash collector to death.

GZ Expat's analysis is pretty much spot on, I believe.

posted by: Justin on 11.21.06 at 08:21 AM [permalink]

The Haze in Singapore has been aweful, This is because the fires in Indonesia, I sure that not getting to Hong Kong thou.
Hit the worst since 1997/98 the other week ahhhhh just horrible.

posted by: Geoff on 11.21.06 at 02:26 PM [permalink]

Thanks GZ Expat and Justin, I figured that might have been the case.

"In short...they are morons."

Put very succinctly.

Yes, the haze in Singapore has been pretty atrocious too, I'd imagine. But at least it isn't self-created...

posted by: HK Dave on 11.21.06 at 05:54 PM [permalink]

i love this site thanks to adim

posted by: Grace on 11.27.06 at 01:28 PM [permalink]

I write on my blog about cars and follow all the news that are somehow related...I should say I was surprised by that news and that don't understand the real reason of this prohibition

posted by: Rob on 12.01.06 at 12:32 PM [permalink]

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