Friday, 29 March 2013

"Department left behind on e-bike benefits"

An electric bike on a road in Hangzhou. Photo: NYT [from SCMP]
The South China Morning Post published my letter in full today, as the lead letter, under the headline above, and the piccie.  Let's see what the Transport Department makes of it, if anything. There's also an e-bikes lobby group, that I'm kind of a part of, pushing for the legalisation of these environmentally-friendly bikes.  Some comments below the letter.

Department left behind on e-bike benefits
How sad that police chief superintendent Eddie Wong Kwok-wai, of the police public relations branch, should think it a fruitful use of police time to chase otherwise law-abiding citizens who ride electric bicycles ("Police cracking down on illegal bikes, tricycles", March 23).
Let's be clear: the only reason e-bikes are "illegal" in Hong Kong is that the Transport Department has failed to keep up with the rest of the world, and failed in its regulatory duties. Hong Kong has the dubious distinction of being the only jurisdiction in the world that does not allow the use of any type of environmentally friendly e-bikes.
Other jurisdictions - the mainland, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Australia, the US, Canada and Europe - all have recognised the health and environmental benefits of e-bikes and amended regulations to legitimise them. Only Hong Kong hasn't bothered.
Does our government have a unique insight that the rest of the world doesn't have, that battery-powered bicycles are somehow dangerous?
In 2008, I presented a submission to the department on how it could regulate the growing use of e-bikes in Hong Kong. Its response was that it couldn't be bothered.
In my submission, I reported on a test that I had done comparing an e-bike and a standard bicycle. On the flat and downhill, the bicycle is faster than an e-bike. Only uphill is an e-bike very slightly faster.
Given that speed is the main factor in accidents, it's surprising that the Hong Kong police should accept the word of one complainant, L. Charleston ("Call to recycle intelligence on 'danger' bikes", March 16), about their alleged danger. There are no statistics in Hong Kong supporting your correspondent's assertion.
Hong Kong residents should not, as Eddie Wong suggests, phone the police to report "offenders". They should instead ring to complain about a shocking waste of police time. This is use of police resources to harass and prosecute people for trying to be healthier and environmentally aware, and Hong Kong is the only jurisdiction in the world to do so.
If there is a response to this letter, it should be from the Transport Department, not the police. It should explain why it has failed to keep up with the rest of the world. Is it simply its dilatory nature? Or is it indeed a holder of some arcane knowledge about the lack of safety of e-bikes of which the rest of the world is unaware? Do tell, Transport Department.
Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay
A comment from PC (online):
"Department left behind on e-bike benefits"
Excellent letter..... and exactly on the mark. Several people over the years have been writing to Transport Department along these lines but quiet word comes back from that the main objections are from (obstructive) senior traffic police officers who think that only they know best.
One of these once proclaimed to me very loudly, "Hong Kong will allow electric bikes on its streets over his dead body". The irony is that he had personally imported a motorcycle specially designed for off road racing and then had it registered for use on public roads.

A comment from Hans:
Very Nice one Peter,
will send it to my Cheung Chau police management, the No2 told me very proud last week that he caught a e-bike rider while I have dozens of unsolved and repeating reports for vandalism, litter, drug use on public kids play and sitting grounds just a stone throw away from their station....
Cheers, & Happy Easter.


A comment from Martin:
Very clear and forceful statement.

A comment from Steve:
... nice one Peter :)