We have no idea, but it’s happening, according the subscription-only South China Morning Post (via the World Business Council for Sustainable Development):
Paying scant attention to the lessons learned by European cities during the past 50 years, China is hurtling with speed and single-mindedness into the car era, favouring it over bicycles and motorbikes. It wants to become a car superpower, like the US and Japan, and sees a booming domestic market as key to that ambition.
The story says bans on electric bikes are already in place in Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Wenzhou and Fuzhou. A Beijing ban could go into effect as early as January. Those in favor of such bans say electric bikes cause traffic congestion, accidents and — get this — pollution (from discarded lead batteries). Those opposed to the bans said in response: “Are you all out of your fucking minds?” Electric bikes use very little energy, are quiet, much smaller than cars and cause no pollution if cities provide users means to recycle batteries properly.
Ms Guo [of the China Bicycle Association] praised the city of Hangzhou , with 280,000 electric bicycles and growing at 60,000 a year, for not seeking a ban but ways to better regulate this popular form of transport.
Nowhere is the fight for the roads more fierce than in Shanghai, which boasts 8 million bicycles, 300,000 electric bicycles, 900,000 motorcycles, 900,000 cars and 10 million pedestrians on the move every day. One reason why the number of bicycles has risen was the abolition of a cheap monthly bus ticket in 1994. The congestion is so serious that the average speed of buses has fallen from 19km/h in 1999 to 10km/h now. The average road space is 2 square metres per person.
Congestion on the two-subway and one-overhead line became so bad that the operator raised the minimum fare in September by 50 per cent to three yuan, with little impact.
Wu Renjian, a transport specialist at the city’s Fudan University, said congestion was so serious that building new roads would not solve the problem. “It is urgent to change the city’s transport structure,” he said. …
[Critics] accuse government officials of being ignorant of the traffic problems of the public because they travel in official cars, often with a police escort that clears the traffic. Yang Xiaoguang, a transport specialist at Tongji University, calls this the “sedan chair culture” — a reference to the Qing dynasty when coolies carried officials in sedans.
The story says one thing may sway the debate back in the bicyclists’ favor — record oil prices. Some are saying this will also lead to loads of hybrid cars on China’s roads. We won’t hold our breath. Wait — yes, we will.