China is the world’s largest producer and distributor of electric bicycles. Both its annual production and consumption account for more than 30 percent of the world’s total. Worldwide e-bike sales in 2010 estimated to be 24 million. About 300,000 in USA, about 700,000 in Europe, 1.2 million in India, Japan and Taiwan, and 21.6 million in China. If the trend continues (which is likely), then the Chinese demand will be 100 million by 2014. That’s a lot of e-bikes!
During my travels in China, the number one hazard can easily be the simple act of crossing the streets. Sometimes it is down right dangerous. Not only you have to navigate through the endless stream of speeding vehicles but also develop your spider sense of dodging the e-bikes.
I dubbed the e-bikes ‘silent killers’ the first night out after I arrived in Xian. They are literally everywhere. The e-bikers see no difference between driving on the roads or the pedestrian sidewalks. Unlike the old fashion bicycles, the e-bikes are silent and especially deadly at night if you happen to be on streets that are not well lit. Folks normally don’t turn their headlights on to conserve energy so not only you can’t hear them, you also can’t see them. I started using flashlights after way too many encounters with e-bikes on sidewalks during my nightly strolls.
The local governments are starting to develop traffic regulations and guidelines to curb the growth of the e-bikes on the roads. May be they can start with getting everyone to wear helmets.