E-bike safety: Complicated Issue for Beijing

Also posted in my Linkedin account

I was recently quoted in a New York Times article about road safety and e-bikes in Beijing. In fact, it’s a controversial question. E-bikes are key to China’s e-commerce revolution. Fresh meals arrive in under 30 minutes, and courier deliveries wind through traffic to arrive at their destinations on time because e-bikes are smaller and more flexible than trucks and cars that might be used in other cities.  Furthermore, e-bikes and 3-wheelers are subject to significantly fewer regulations.

Along with the growth in human and car population, the population of e-bikes has exploded, with e-bikes forced into crowded bike-lanes and sidewalks. Yet due to lack of training and regulation, e-bikes also travel at high speeds in dangerous situations, such as in the wrong direction, without proper lighting and with little consideration for practices of other road users. Furthermore, commercial e-bike drivers have serious time pressure to deliver quickly, or face the wrath of angry customers and low ratings on e-commerce platforms – issues that their employers do not have to face directly.

Training is key for road safety. Standardized rules and practices make roads safer for everyone. In the context of more cars (which crowd our bicycle spaces), training, regulation and insurance is needed to keep e-bike drivers and other road users safe from injury, loss and even death. In the absence of better regulation and law enforcement, even cursory training on rules of the road and safety strategies through an exam (or even through schools!) would make roads safer and more convenient for everyone.

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