Where should “slow down” electric bikes go?
Recently, the "Notice on Strengthening the Standard Management of Electric Bicycles" issued by Fuzhou City has once again caused widespread controversy over the "ban, limit, and release" of electric bicycles. In fact, since electric bicycles have been on the road, various “restricted” and “prohibited” regulations have been commonplace. Local governments have different management methods for electric bicycles, and have never formed a relatively unified urban electric bicycle development management and planning. Due to close contact with people's livelihood, the introduction of new management methods is almost always accompanied by fierce confrontation. Behind the differences are the different perceptions and trade-offs between security interests and efficiency.
Electric bikes spark traffic discussions
In the past 10 years, due to the increase in battery production efficiency and the significant decrease in cost, electric bicycles have become increasingly popular with residents due to their low cost and high efficiency. The number of electric bicycles has also developed in a blowout manner. According to statistics, from 2007 to 2017, the average annual growth rate of electric bicycles in Chinese cities and towns exceeded 80%. As of the end of 2018, the average number of electric bicycles owned by urban and rural households in China was 57.5 and 74.8 per 100 households, respectively. This amount makes China's electric bicycles a major transportation issue that has to be discussed.
In short-to-medium trips within 10 kilometers, electric bicycles are cheaper and more efficient than bicycles, cars, buses, rail transit and other modes of travel. Under the current situation of urban traffic congestion, this is basically no doubt. In the morning and evening rush hours of commuting, the efficiency advantages of electric bicycles are even more obvious. However, at the same time, the rapid growth of electric bicycles greatly exceeds the operating load of urban roads, and problems such as random parking, traffic violations, and fire hazards have become a major pain point in urban management.
For this reason, the compulsory standard of the Safety Technical Specifications for Electric Bicycles (hereinafter referred to as the "new national standard") revised in 2018 was officially implemented on April 15 this year. The new national standard has compulsory regulations on various technical indicators such as the maximum speed, vehicle quality, and output power of electric bicycles. However, the new national standard does not indicate where the "slow down" electric bicycles should go, and how to go. The difficulties remain with city managers.
Electric bicycles should not be "one size fits all"
The development plan of electric bicycles should pay more attention to its energy-saving, emission-reduction and blocking functions. Where road planning allows, it should vigorously support the development of low-speed electric bicycles, instead of directly banning them across the board.
First, the advantages of energy saving and emission reduction of electric bicycles are obvious. According to the estimates of the China Bicycle Association, the number of electric bicycles in China in 2018 exceeded 250 million, which has exceeded the 232 million civilian cars in the same period. If calculated based on an average annual travel of 2500 kilometers (average 10 kilometers per day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year), the total annual mileage of electric bicycles in the country will reach 625 billion kilometers. With reference to the "China's White Paper on Energy Conservation of Electric Vehicles", electric bicycles can save 16.313 million tons of gasoline throughout the year according to the ratio of 80% replacing motorcycles (2.5 liters per 100 kilometers) and 20% of private vehicle mileage (8 liters per 100 kilometers). About 13.1% of China's apparent gasoline consumption (about 124 million tons) in 2018. At present, PetroChina (5.860, -0.04, -0.68%) is close to 70% of its external dependence. The energy-saving and oil substitution advantages of electric bicycles have played a very significant role in promoting the transformation of China's energy structure and ensuring the safety of oil supply.
In addition, the use of electric bicycles can help reduce urban pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. The automotive sector is an important source of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides, and it also generates a large amount of greenhouse gases. Electric bicycles do not directly emit pollutants and carbon dioxide. Electric bicycles consume only about 1 kilowatt-hour per 100 kilometers, and an electric vehicle consumes only 50 kilowatt-hours a year, which consumes far less energy than other motor vehicles, and its indirect emissions are far lower than those of motor vehicles. In addition, electric bicycles are often charged at night, which also helps to balance the pressure on the power grid and play a role in cutting peaks and filling valleys.
The second is the blocking effect of electric bicycles. At present, the huge automobile stock has greatly exceeded the road operation load of many cities, and the development plan of urban roads has lagged behind the diversified needs of residents' travel, which has seriously exacerbated the phenomenon of traffic congestion in China. Wasted urban transportation space. Some people also believe that electric bicycles occupy motor vehicle lanes and drive at intersections, which directly cause traffic congestion. However, from the perspective of road operation efficiency, the problem of traffic congestion is largely due to the excessive number of cars, and electric bicycles can only be regarded as exacerbating traffic congestion.
The "prohibition" and "release" of electric bicycles involve the allocation of road driving rights. Currently, most cities in China do not have dedicated electric bike lanes. According to the relevant calculation results, from the perspective of occupied road area, the average dynamic road area of small cars occupies 23 square meters, while that of electric vehicles is 10 square meters. From the perspective of transportation time and space resource consumption, the per capita time and space resource consumption of electric vehicles More than 2 square meters per second; small cars are larger than 6 square meters per second. Therefore, if the electric bicycle obtains the same right of road, its role is not to "block traffic", but to "control traffic", which has an important role in improving the efficiency of urban road operation.
Third, the disadvantages of electric bicycles are controllable. At present, the threshold for using electric bicycles is low, and drivers' awareness of traffic regulations is weak, and there are no special laws and regulations to supervise them. Traffic violations have almost no cost, posing a threat to public transportation safety. In addition, due to the unqualified quality of some vehicles and the lack of charging facilities in urban communities, there are hidden fire hazards in the charging process of electric bicycles.
It is undeniable that while electric bicycles are convenient for residents, they also have certain risks. However, these adverse effects are not uncontrollable. According to the new national standard, the maximum design speed of electric bicycles is 25 kilometers per hour. After exceeding the maximum speed limit, the electric motor will no longer provide power output, and the weight of the entire vehicle including the battery is limited to 55 kg, which greatly reduces the damage caused by the accident. In addition, the new national standard also specifies the electrical safety of vehicles such as fire and flame retardant performance. Therefore, the implementation of the new national standard can not only improve the safety performance, but also give full play to the flexible and effective functional advantages of "short and medium distance travel" of electric bicycles, and at the same time effectively reduce interference with other traffic orders, and ensure the legitimate rights and interests of all traffic travelers.
Global experience in electric bike management
In foreign countries, electric bicycles are also attractive, and because of their small scale, management issues are not as prominent as those in China. Compared with China, some countries have stricter management methods. The first is technical standards, such as the EU's strength requirements for key components such as frames and handlebars, and electrical components such as headlights. Japan has strict regulations on the ratio of motor output power to pedal power at different vehicle speeds. . The second is the driver's safety requirements. For example, Canada, Australia and other countries require traveling to wear a helmet; Germany, Australia and other countries require driving licenses. Finally, the road problem is due to the different attributes of electric bicycles in different countries, such as ordinary bicycles in the United States, the same motorcycle management rules in Australia, and separate categories in Canada, and the traffic rules followed on the road are also inconsistent. Summarizing foreign experience, it can be found that due to the relatively small size, electric bicycles have generally not caused a large impact on traffic, and strict management measures are still worthy of reference for China. At the same time, in response to China's outstanding issues, a bold and innovative "electric bicycle road" is needed.
Although the weight of electric bicycles has been reduced and the speed has been slowed, measures to support electric bicycles should also "follow up."
The first is to take the opportunity of the implementation of the new national standard to increase the scientific management of electric bicycles, especially the standard management and penalties of manufacturers (without leaving the retrofit to accelerate the backdoor), and take measures to eliminate out-of-standard vehicles as soon as possible (such as appropriate government subsidies) Implementation of real-name registration, community parking and charging. At the same time, we should strengthen the education of drivers on road traffic regulations and training in traffic safety awareness, and truly eliminate traffic violations from the source and reduce the risk of traffic operation.
The second is to promulgate regulations for traffic management of electric bicycles as soon as possible, formulate penalties for illegal driving and increase driving costs. At the same time, full use of scientific and technological means to ease the pressure of traffic supervision, such as Shanghai, Jinan and other advanced "electronic police" system has played an important role in monitoring traffic violations.
The third is to make full use of the resource allocation function of the capital market to innovate management methods. In recent years, intelligent transportation systems developed with advanced technologies such as the Internet, big data analysis, and artificial intelligence have been favored by the capital market (such as shared electric bicycles), and they have developed rapidly. Both the government and social capital have increased investment in the construction of smart transportation systems, which can improve road operation efficiency through real-time allocation of road resources.
The fourth is to plan the road transportation system from a long-term perspective. The "one-size-fits-all" administrative control obviously addresses the symptoms and not the root causes. How to allocate limited road resources is not only a road planning issue, but also a livelihood issue that involves the well-being of residents. It is generally believed that the efficiency of public transportation is the highest, but a complete public transportation system takes time. Even the most complete public transportation system faces the choice of flexible and effective travel modes of the "last few kilometers." For the majority of residents, low cost and high efficiency electric bicycles have great appeal. The effective layout of a scientifically planned road system and the allocation of dedicated lanes for electric bicycles are the long-term choices for city managers.