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Off your electric bike!

This Chinese banning of electric bicycles is placed firmly in the stupidity column at Beyond Brilliance Beyond Stupidity. Bicycles good, cars bad.

It is hard to disagree with BBBS when they oppose this particular piece of partiality towards cars and against bikes. My only uncertainty concerns the fact that someone has to decide about how roads are administered, and there just might be good reasons for this, besides trying to hurry along the making of a big home market for cars in China, and clearing the proles off the roads, to speed things up for fat cat limos.

That hesitation aside, this certainly looks like a classic case of a law to stop the potential future from competing with the established present. Cars are already big business. Electricity for transport has a long way to go, but will surely go that long way, if allowed to. Batteries, to name just one crucial aspect of electric transport technology, seem to be progressing well, judging by how much better digital camera batteries have got lately. So is China wise to be deliberately trying to rebuild old Detroit?

The libertarian line on all this, which of course is the one I prefer, is that road owners should price the use of roads, and then the market would decide whether electric bikes are a reasonable proposition or too much of a bother to other road users, such as cars. Something tells me that this solution will not be unleashed in China any time soon, although that something may be misinformed.

Whatever you make of this story, it is an interesting angle on China now. My personal policy towards China is (a) trade with it by buying cheap stuff, and (b) learn about it, good and bad, and (c) blog about it, ditto. And one interesting thing I learned from reading this story is that in China they apparently have something called the China Bicycle Association. Concerning this ban on electric bikes, the China Bicycle Association is “enraged”. Good to hear that associations in China are allowed to be enraged. I could not find any China Bicycle Association website though.

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12 comments to Off your electric bike!

  • Peter

    The idea of banning electric bikes first surfaced about 2 years ago in Beijing. At that time it was pushed by “standard” bicycle manufacturers (that are overwhelmingly state owned) – versus the manufacturers of electric bikes which are overwhelmingly private companies. The state owned manufacturers found that they could not compete with the electric bikes (nor did they have the ability to manufacture them) and were looking for other competitive advantages – I guess they found one.

  • Lascaille

    While amusing, I’m not entirely surprised – as a London resident and a fairly regular cyclist, electric bicycles are a bit of a liability. Their top speed is about half that of the reasonable speed for any rider on a road bike (i.e. most bike commuters) so they clog up the bike lanes, they don’t accelerate at all so they clog up the traffic lights and the people that use them tend either to be overweight, bad riders and often old. I’m not sure if this is the actual reason they’ve banned them, but still, from a practical point of view they’re terrible.

  • Patrick

    Maybe they are worried that soon, they’ll be so capitalist that they’ll all be fat!!

  • Midwesterner

    With the number of non-performing loans in China, I think the government needs to find ways to get the citizens to convert their savings into high cost products manufactored by the debtors. In this way, the banks can deduct the money that savers ‘withdraw’ to buy the cars or whatever, directly from the non-performing loans without ever having to show cash.

    I think it might work that way. If so it would be bullet dodged. For now.

  • You can just imagine the typical leftist/statist take on this story, which is to be outraged by the lobbying power of the evil oil/car cartels that ruin the world for everyone, etc…

    Of course, these guys never can see that the only reason that corporate lobbies have this power is because the state gives it to them, and that to limit the power of the state to interfere in such matters is the best way to limit the power of corporate lobby groups.

    And this story shows that this principle holds all around the world.

  • zmollusc

    With regard to the sluggish performance of electric bicycles, why should this be so? No prizes for guessing the correct answer.

    Is it…..

    1. Electric motors are inherently inefficient.
    2. Electric bicyclists are naturally green and wish to conserve energy.
    3. Electric bicyclists like to savour the view.
    4. Some committee of overpaid interfering bureaucratic suits have decreed that electric bicycles may only have tiny, puny motors.
    5. Battery technology needs more research.
    6. Excessive politeness (“No, after you! I insist!”).

  • mike

    zmollusc: Actually, none of the above. As Lascaille has pointed out above, many people who use electric bikes are old and frail-ish and so this is why they have a top speed of 10mph or whatever it is. And they are actually a pain in the backside because they clog up the same lane as the rest of us use on our petrol-guzzling 125cc motorcycles.

    The younger generation, certainly in Taiwan (but perhaps somewhat less so in mainland China) prefer proper motorcycles and also what we would call ‘scooters’ or ‘mopeds’. The Japanese have not really taken to two-wheeled transport on a mass-scale the way the Taiwanese and Chinese have.

  • I’ve just came across to your blog.
    Interesting blog!

  • When one thing has been invented ,it must has its own merits and dismerits,so ,I just hold on my opinions.Everything which is exist has its own reason.

  • Thanks for sharing and I like your articles.