From pedal power to battery power.
A few days ago I wrote an article about the lack of public transportation in 2nd tier Chinese cities such as Suzhou. So how do most of the residents in Suzhou travel if they can't get a taxi or bus in time? Well, the majority of residents use an E-bike (Electric bike), or they rent a 'Pay As You Go' bike (explained below), or they have their own car (for which most Chinese people take a loan out from the bank to buy). The former two forms of transportation are becoming increasing popular in China. The country that used to be known as the ‘Cycle Country’ may as well stick to using that title again as these 2 wheeled mechanical beings are favoured by the far majority of the population in order to beat the congested traffic. You may recall my blog article on the demise of the cycle HERE. Well, it appears that the bicycle is making a comeback.
Here is some information about the two major forms of pedal transportation:
What's an E-bike?
Essentially, if I am to put it into non-technical language then an E-bike may be looked at to be nothing but a plastic version of your typical Italian style Vespa scooter. With it’s parts all screwed in, it can easily be dismantled into pieces in case there is a probably. The E-bikes run on 1 or 2 batteries placed underneath the main seat of the bike. On a full battery, an E-bike can run for a maximum speed of around 40kph and for around 15 miles before the battery starts to drain again! Because it takes around 8 to 9 hours to fully charge the batteries so it’s best to have them charged at night-time.
Pros of having an E-bike:
1. Flexible to use whenever you want and wherever you want to go (especially in a city like Suzhou where public transportation is lacking).
2. Cheap, no need to pay for fuel!
3. Looks somewhat cool
4. Light, and easy to operate.
5. Can be charged up at prime spots around any city (1RMB to charge an E-bike gives about 20 minutes of charging time).
Cons of having an E-bike:
1. Batteries can EASILY be stolen if not chained properly (thieves are more than likely to take your batteries and not your bike!)
2. Wheel locks can EASILY be broken (the smartest of thieves know how to break them!).
3. It’s made of plastic (or cheap steel) so easy to damage and break
4. DANGEROUS: E-bikes are known as the ‘Silent Killers’ because they do not warn pedestrians in advance (seldom use the horn), and at night time they don’t use headlamps (to save battery), and people drive the opposite way. Somehow people also tend to have a strong passive aggressiveness towards others (read = road rage) when they ride E-bikes.
5. Putting in and taking out the batteries every time you charge them is troublesome.
6. In the winter it can be tough to ride an E-bike because the chilling wind will bite into your hands and body (gloves are hopeless)
7. It’s so easy to crash them because of the ‘road rage ’mentality of other riders.
8. The occasional bumps/holes in the roads are the perfect recipe for disaster.
9. You’ll probably end up paying more for things like flat tyres, lights, and other things that will make this plastic bike break up easily.
10. Cannot hire an E-bike, can only buy one!
Generally, E-bikes can cost anything from 1,500 RMB to around 3,500RMB.
What's a 'Pay As You Go' bicycle?
Located at prime spots around the city, these are pedal bikes installed by the local governments to encourage people to use bicycles instead of public transport.
Customers have to present their ID card (or passport) at the nearest police station or the government office (contact details can be found displayed on a notice board at every bicycle stand). With a deposit of around 100RMB or 200RMB (depending on the rules of the city), and an initial charge of around 100RMB, customers can hire the bikes for as long as they want. After finishing their ride, customers have to park the bicycle at the nearest available stand (i.e. they cannot take the bike home!). All the bicycles are atomically tracked using a GPS system so they cannot be stolen. These bicycles are safe, flexible, and cheap to use
The choice is YOURS!
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