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China's easy riders deride electric bike ban

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Nov 21: A ban on battery-powered bicycles in the southern China city of Guangzhou has left tens of thousands of owners grounded without compensation and angered vendors who face lost business, local media reported today.

The ban, effective a day after police announced it last week but allowing a ''15-day education period'', was aimed at preventing electric-powered bikes from becoming ''the main mode of transport'', Xinhua reported.

''If such bikes are permitted, this will certainly rapidly increase the burden on roads,'' Xinhua quoted police as saying.

Guangzhou, a booming Pearl River Delta city of about 10 million often choked with traffic james, was China's fifth-fastest growing car market in the first half of 2006, state media has reported.

The city has about 870,000 cars, Xinhua reported last week, growing at about 150,000 every year. Police also cited safety concerns and the inability to effectively enforce traffic regulations on electric-bike riders.

''These riders have never received any special riding training or tests, so their driving skills are very difficult to guarantee.'' Police added that compensation would not be given to bike owners as they had been urged ''through the media'' not to buy bikes and in any case, the Guangzhou government had ''never permitted'' them.

At least 100,000 residents ride electric bikes every day in Guangzhou, which at 1,000-3,000 yuan (125-380 dollar) are a cheap and increasingly popular form of transport in Chinese cities.

But several local governments have banned the bikes which require no licence and are exempt from registration fees.

Beijing has confined electric bikes to its outer suburbs, although riders regularly flout the regulation.

Over 100 electric bike manufacturers, vendors and riders held a rally in a Guangzhou hotel to protest the ban, the Yangcheng Evening News, a Guangzhou daily, reported.

''Allow the orderly and healthy development of electric bicycles and don't simply kill them off!'' the paper quoted protesters as saying.

The group issued a joint communique, saying the authorities ''had not fully consulted the will of the people''.

Construction Ministry Vice Minister Qiu Baoxing earlier this year slammed city planners for pandering to private car owners and ignoring the needs of ordinary pedal cyclists, saying China should remain the ''kingdom of bicycles''.

Qiu lamented that some Chinese cities were cutting back on bicycle lanes in order to make more room for cars, even as some Western cities were building more lanes for cyclists.


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