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Monday, October 4, 2010

Cruisin' on E-Bikes


This won't really surprised anyone who's been to China the past couple years; electric bikes are really popular over here.

From The Associated Press:


SHANGHAI — It's a simple pleasure, but Xu Beilu savors it daily: gliding past snarled traffic on her motorized bicycle, relaxed and sweat-free alongside the pedal-pushing masses. China, the world's bicycle kingdom — one for every three inhabitants — is going electric.

Workers weary of crammed public transport or pedaling long distances to jobs are upgrading to battery-powered bikes and scooters. Even some who can afford cars are ditching them for electric two-wheelers to avoid traffic jams and expensive gasoline.

The bicycle was a vivid symbol of China in more doctrinaire communist times, when virtually no one owned a car. Even now, nearly two decades after the country began its great leap into capitalism, it still has 430 million bicycles by government count, outnumbering electric bikes and scooters 7-1.

But production of electric two-wheelers has soared from fewer than 200,000 eight years ago to 22 million last year, mostly for the domestic market. The industry estimates about 65 million are on Chinese roads.

Car sales are also booming but there are still only 24 million for civilian use, because few of the 1.3 billion population can afford them. And unlike in many other developing countries, Chinese cities still have plenty of bicycle lanes, even if some have made way for cars and buses.

"E-bike" riders are on the move in the morning or late at night, in good weather or bad. When it's wet, they are a rainbow army in plastic capes. On fine days, women don gloves, long-sleeved white aprons and face-covering sun guards.

One of them is Xu, on her Yamaha e-bike, making the half-hour commute from her apartment to her job as a marketing manager. She had thought of buying a car but dropped the idea. "It's obvious that driving would be more comfortable, but it's expensive," she says.

"I like riding my e-bike during rush hour, and sometimes enjoy a laugh at the people stuck in taxis. It's so convenient and helpful in Shanghai, since the traffic is worse than ever."

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