“E-bikes” are what the rest of the world call electric scooters. They are more than a gateway vehicle that ultimately lead to getting a motorcycle: in China e-bikes are a way of life.
Speeding down busy roads without helmets may seem like an accident waiting to happen in the West. In China it happens to be part of the daily commute to work, school or to run errands. Even children do it – the youngest ones are usually held in their parent’s lap but older children have a wide variety of riding spots.
They could sit on the handlebars, obstructing the view of the road. They can also sit in the back seat, usually backwards, flailing their limbs dangerously close to cars, trucks and other e-bikes. Finally, they can sit on the ground, where the driver usually plants their feet. This spot is best if it’s raining and a poncho is thrown over the driver and bike.
Rain-fall is one of the greatest dangers to e-biking. The road gets slippery and any turn can become tumble. When it’s raining it’s best to avoid driving against traffic – which is another daily occurrence.
Cars and e-bikes are recommended to stay on their side of the road and follow traffic lights. This doesn’t always happen – cars take advantage of pedestrian crossings to make sharp U-turns, drive in whichever direction suits them best and don’t stop at a red light if they’re in a hurry.
E-bikes can get away with even more rule-breaking and in smaller cities like Huaqiao the police officers won’t even stop you. Shanghai and Beijing are considering banning e-bikes, likely because they are so prone to causing accidents on and off the road.
Personally, I can’t imagine a Chinese city without e-bikes. Not only is it a part of the culture, but it makes it so much easier to get around. E-bikes are cheaper than cars, they run on electricity so they are environmentally clean and they can shorten people’s commutes.
We may consider it scary and dangerous in the West, but the Chinese are raised on e-bikes. They watch their parents drive confidently while playing a game on their phone. They learn to doge near-accidents and develop what must be a special e-bike sense that keeps them from crashing despite their chaotic driving.
Isaac and I bought an e-bike too because when in China…
(we may drive against traffic like the locals, but we make sure to wear helmets!)
Showing off our shiny helmets!
This was before we got our helmets. We had to pick them up the day after be bought the bike 🙂
It’s not always fun if the weather is bad…