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Electric Bike Use in China and Their Impacts on the Environment, Safety, Mobility and Accessibility

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  • Cherry, Christopher
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    Chinese cities have a long legacy of bicycle use due to relatively low incomes, dense urban development, and short trip lengths. Because of tremendous economic growth resulting in increased motorization and spatial expansion of cities, trips are becoming longer and more difficult to make by bicycle. As a result, electric powered twowheelers have risen in popularity over the past five years. Touted as environmentally friendly vehicles, they are capable of traveling 450 kilometers on a single charge and emit zero tailpipe emissions. However, many cities are banning electric twowheelers from city streets, citing safety and environmental problems. They do have significant environmental impacts because they use lead acid batteries and electricity, which is predominantly generated from coal power plants, but they also have significant mobility benefits that are seldom considered. This research investigates the tremendous growth of electric twowheelers in China and compares their environmental and safety impacts to those of alternative modes; such as public transportation, or personal cars. This research also analyzes the benefits of electric twowheelers in terms of increased mobility and accessibility to opportunities due to their increased speed and range. Electric twowheelers tend to be more energy efficient and produce less air pollution per kilometer traveled than many other modes. Also, to the extent that they displace car trips, they improve the safety of the transportation system in Chinese cities. While electric twowheelers do have some problems that need to be addressed (namely excessive lead and battery pollution), they provide large benefits and can be a successful strategy toward a sustainable transportation future.

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    Paper provided by Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Berkeley in its series Institute of Transportation Studies, Research Reports, Working Papers, Proceedings with number qt8bn7v9jm.

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    Date of creation: 01 Apr 2007
    Handle: RePEc:cdl:itsrrp:qt8bn7v9jm
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