Shanghai’s scooter crackdown seems slightly unreasonable
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.