File photo shows a scooter on his way to work in Beijing, China on August 20, 2015. [Photo/VCG]
China's top two cities have banned electric scooters from roads amid safety concerns, despite the growing popularity of the new modes of transportation, for which there are no national safety standards.
Beijing's traffic authorities said that, starting on Monday, people riding electric scooters on public roads will be fined 10 yuan ($1.50) and told to stay off the road. The ban applies to one- and two-wheeled self-balancing scooters as well.
The announcement was made after traffic police in Shanghai launched a campaign to get electric scooters off public roads, with police officers stopping riders because the scooters endangered traffic safety.
The Beijing Consumer Association said it tested more than 20 electric scooters of different brands recently and found that most had substandard brakes. The braking distance of some was as much as 9.9 meters, and only one could come to a full stop in less than 4 meters.
Sixteen of the tested scooters could go faster than the maximum 20 km/h set for electric bikes.
"They (electric scooters) don't fall in the category of either motor vehicles or non-motorized ones (according to Chinese law)," said Dong Dehai, a spokesman for Shanghai's Huangpu district police.
Authorities in Guangzhou, China's third-largest city, are also considering a ban on electric scooters, according to media reports.
Despite the safety hazard and lack of safety standards, the scooters are nonetheless gaining popularity. On taobao.com, China's leading e-commerce website, several thousand sellers of self-balancing scooters can be found. Many of them sold more than 4,000 each in the past month.
BaiHe, a 27-year-old hair-dresser in Beijing who bought a two-wheeled self-balancing scooter early this month for work transportation, said he will ignore the ban, considering the scooter's convenience.
"I live 10 kilometers away from my barbershop," he said. "The scooter can travel 25 kilometers on one charge. It's cheap, convenient and easy to control. It can also avoid traffic jams."
He also said it's easy to stop the scooter. "What you have to do is to lean your body backward a little bit and it can be stopped easily, since its speed is low."
Ding Zhilei, assistant president of Ninebot Inc, a Beijing-based maker of personal electric vehicles, said his company is cooperating with the government to draft safety standards for electric self-balancing scooters and to promote legislation.
The company is now making self-balancing scooters according to national speed standards for electric bikes, he said.
China is not the only country where electric scooters are restricted. According to media reports, such scooters are not allowed on main roads in Japan, and drivers must have a special license. Their use has also been restricted in the United States and United Kingdom.
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Ma Si contributed to this story.
Reprinted from China Daily