Beijing Going Electric!


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Michael Knapp

International visitors to Beijing often tell me they are amazed at how many electric bikes they see here. One friend recently commented, "I wonder why we don't use more electric bikes in America."  Americans are paying outrageous prices for gasoline. Meanwhile they cruise around the city in huge gas guzzling vehicles.  Beijingers complain about gas prices too, but a larger part of the population is exempt from this burden because they either pedal to work or glide along on electric powered vehicles. 

We bought our first electric bike over four years ago when my wife was pregnant. We've since added a second one to our collection of vehicles, making a perfect set of transportation for our family of four. Our son's kindergarten is only a few miles from our home, but it's on the other side of an area that has terrible traffic. Driving him to school in the morning takes about double the time we spend riding there by electric bike. He's still small enough to stand on the bike in front of me (see picture on right), safely squeezed in between my knees. We still wait for traffic lights to turn green at intersections, but we can cruise through bike lanes while masses of cars are stuck motionless. 

To avoid totally missing out on physical exercise, and to be prepared for those times when the battery would be low, we bought the kind of electric bikes that can also be pedaled. I see a lot of great looking electric bikes that look just like scooters, but I like the freedom to immediately switch over to pedal power.

While other countries complain about China's factory air pollution, no other place in the world has as many "motorists" ridding virtually pollution-free electric bikes.  As I look around at the countless electric bikes, I cannot imagine how filthy the air would be if every electric vehicle were changed into an exhaust emitting cars and motor bikes.

Electric bikes are so practical in Beijing that restaurants are even using them to deliver meals (see picture on left).

I would recommend anybody planning to stay in Beijing more than six months to invest in an electric power vehicle. Not only are they friendly to the environment and cheap to operate, they are the quickest way to get through Beijing's traffic jams!