Shang­hai’s scooter crack­down seems slightly un­rea­son­able

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Cyril Saidah

In 2014, Shang­hai im­ple­mented a new rule to reg­is­ter mo­tor­ized and elec­tric scoot­ers. This was done to clear the streets of ve­hi­cles con­sid­ered un­safe or too pol­lut­ing. A tem­po­rary blue seal was given to newly reg­is­tered scoot­ers, which was only valid un­til March 1, 2017. Un­for­tu­nately for me, I just found out about that!

Un­til 10 days ago, I was the proud owner of a high-end scooter that I bought 10 months ago. The scooter was is­sued one of those blue seals along with of­fi­cial reg­is­tra­tion, but of course, like pretty much ev­ery­thing else in China, no­body told me that this was only tem­po­rary.

At first I thought I would just have to com­ply with the new law and get an up­dated free reg­is­tra­tion. But ac­cord­ing to a re­cent news re­port ex­plain­ing the rules, au­tho­rized scoot­ers can only travel at 20 km/h max­i­mum speed, with a weight not ex­ceed­ing 40 kg and an en­gine power of only 240w/40V.

Those ve­hi­cles that don’t com­ply with these new rules – in­clud­ing my beau­ti­ful black scooter that hits 50 km/h and weighs 80 kg – will face a 200 yuan ($28.91) fine and, after this month, will also be im­pounded.

I’ve since heard nu­mer­ous com­plaints from friends who were also blind­sided by the new reg­u­la­tions. Al­though reg­is­tra­tion is free and there are many of­fi­cial cen­ters around the city where you can get a new li­cense plate, any­one try­ing to com­ply with the rules faces an­other is­sue: ridicu­lously long lines at the reg­is­tra­tion cen­ters.

Many peo­ple need their scoot­ers to go to work and even use it FOR work. I’m think­ing about the thou­sands of de­liv­ery guys who hit the roads ev­ery day, no mat­ter the weather con­di­tions or out­side tem­per­a­tures, to de­liver Taobao pur­chases or take-away food, both very pop­u­lar in Shang­hai.

I doubt those work­ers, who are mostly non-lo­cals from the coun­try­side, have the lux­ury to spend half a day dur­ing busi­ness hours to queue up for a new li­cense plate. I also doubt that their ve­hi­cles can only go 20 km/h. If such were re­ally the case, how would we ever get our food de­liv­ered within 30 min­utes? It’s sim­ply not fea­si­ble.

A French friend of mine who has lived in Shang­hai for 15 years sees this sit­u­a­tion as a type of dis­crim­i­na­tion against the poor­est class of peo­ple who can only af­ford to drive two-wheeled ve­hi­cles.

In an ur­ban me­trop­o­lis with one of the world’s most con­gested roads – which is di­rectly due to the re­cent pop­u­lar­ity among the Chi­nese mid­dle- and up­per-classes to show off their wealth by buy­ing a sedan and ex­pen­sive Shang­hai li­cense plate – any­one who walks, rides a bike or drives a scooter is sim­ply seen as in­fe­rior.

For former scooter driv­ers such as my­self, I ad­mit that, at 20 km/h, you are at much less risk of a fa­tal ac­ci­dent than at 50 km/h. Yet I still can’t fathom why, if of­fi­cials are truly con­cerned about our safety, they wouldn’t in­stead im­ple­ment a manda­tory hel­met law. In my home coun­try, France, you can­not le­gally drive a scooter with­out a hel­met.

I also re­al­ize that, since only the small­est type of scoot­ers will now be tol­er­ated on the city streets, there will prob­a­bly not be a sin­gle gas-en­gine scooter that can pass the new re­quire­ments, which in turn means no more ex­haust-emit­ting scoot­ers. But is this re­ally go­ing to solve Shang­hai’s mas­sive air pol­lu­tion prob­lem? Frankly, I have rea­son­able doubts about that.

For me per­son­ally, I have only driven my new 5,000 yuan scooter 550 kilo­me­ters since last year. That means I’ve paid 10 yuan/km to use it, in­clud­ing elec­tric­ity charg­ing. This is far more ex­pen­sive than if I’d just taken a taxi ev­ery day to go to work, which would not have bode well for Shang­hai’s air qual­ity.

The sil­ver lin­ing in all this is that I have de­cided to try one of those cool Mo­bikes I’ve been see­ing ev­ery­where. This will help the en­vi­ron­ment and also keep me fit. But, like all things in China, I sup­pose it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore the gov­ern­ment de­cides to crack down upon shared bikes as well. The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

Il­lus­tra­tions: Chen Xia/GT

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