Monday, 25 March 2013

E-bikes for Hong Kong

Letter to the South China Morning Post, today. Letters referred to are below the fold....

How sad that police chief superintendent Eddie Wong 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: 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 – our motherland China, ASEAN, Australia, the US, Canada, Europe – all have recognised the health and environmental benefits of e-bikes and amended regulations to legitimize them.  Only Hong Kong hasn’t bothered. 
Does our government have a unique insight -- that battery-powered bicycles are somehow “dangerous” -- that the rest of the world doesn’t have?
In 2008 I presented a submission to the Transport Department on how they could regulate the growing use of e-bikes in Hong Kong.  Their response: they 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 standard 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, Mar 16), about their alleged danger.  There are no statistics in Hong Kong supporting Charleston’s assertion.
Hong Kong residents should not do as Eddie Wong suggests: phone the police to report “offenders”.  They should instead ring him (2984 6200) to complain about a shocking waste police time. Imagine: using police resources to harass and prosecute people for trying to be healthier and environmentally aware and HK 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.  The TD should explain why they have failed to keep up with the rest of the world. Is it simply their dilatory nature?  Or are they indeed holders of some arcane knowledge about the lack of safety of e-bikes of which the rest of the world is unaware?  Do tell, TD.

Hong Kong

*Hawaii does not allow e-bikes, but does allow electric mopeds.
My submission to TD, May 2008

Police cracking down on illegal bikes, tricycles (23/3/12)
I refer to L. Charleston's letter ("Call to recycle intelligence on 'danger' bikes", March 16), which expressed concern over the use of electric bicycles and tricycles in Mui Wo, Lantau.
Public safety, of which road safety and the reduction of traffic accidents form an integral part, is a key operational priority for the Lantau Police District.
The police will continue to promote road safety through a three-pronged approach, namely: publicity, education and enforcement.
Our officers are very mindful of your correspondent's concerns.
Not only in Sham Shui Po, but throughout Hong Kong, the police are taking enforcement action, including warnings and arrests, against persons driving motorised bicycles and tricycles in contravention of the law. Indeed, on March 19, two people were arrested for such offences on Lantau.
Please be assured that the police will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of all road users.
To assist the local police, your readers are encouraged to report any sighting of the use of electric bicycles and tricycles in the Mui Wo area to the duty officer of the Lantau South divisional police station at 2984 6200, or call 999 in case of emergency situations.
Eddie Wong Kwok-wai, chief superintendent, police public relations branch
Call to recycle intelligence on 'danger' bikes (16/3/13)
I laughed at an item on a news programme on television earlier this week, regarding an arrest over driving a modified bicycle in Sham Shui Po and the bicycle being photographed from all angles as if it were something extraordinary.
Come to Mui Wo, where these bikes are everywhere and increasing in number every month as new consignments arrive from the mainland.
As the arresting police rightly pointed out, they are driven without registration and they are dangerous as they are motorised, very heavy and impossible to stop quickly.
In Mui Wo they are driven at speed down the emergency vehicular access roads which are closed to traffic, and also on narrow, winding paths where anyone would be badly injured should they step into the path of one.
Even worse, tricycles with passenger seats on the back are also modified - no chance of these stopping should you be in their way.
Please would the sharp-eyed Sham Shui Po police give their Mui Wo colleagues some hints on how to spot these modified vehicles?
They should also give advice on which laws the drivers are contravening, in order that we may see the removal of this danger from our area.
L. Charleston, Lantau