Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Zoom Zoom Zoom: Electric Bikes


I wonder if Mr. Oster has observed the increase of electric bicyclists in cities other than Beijing. I didn't think that traffic was as bad or accidents as frequent as he proclaims. For instance, in Kunming I noticed many more electric bikes in downtown streets back in January 2009 than on those of Beijing. However, what was different was that there were patrol officers who guided traffic and ensured that bicyclists stayed within their lanes, especially in two-way streets. At intersections, the officers fined or stopped anyone who would run the red light.

The rise of electric bicycles in Beijing and other major coastal cities highlights yet another issue on material necessity. I can see why a city like Kunming or Chongqing would have more electric bikes than Beijing - those cities are hilly. Those cities' residents need electric bicycles in order to commute within reasonable time limits. Yet coastal cities like Beijing and Shanghai are relatively flat in the central areas - the only hills are the highways and ring roads, man-made. What convenient obstacles. I suppose the electric bicycle industry has the urban infrastructure department to thank for its growing success. In a sense, the electric bikes are necessary to maneuver the long, rising curvy exits that break off from the main highways like bad hair. But ultimately, the change in the cityscape adjusted residents' needs to be dependent on unnatural additions.

I wonder where my bike is now. If it hasn't been stolen, it's probably still outside my old apartment in Dongwangzhuang, gathering dust next to the 80 year old man and his two flappy-eared dogs.

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