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Proposed ban on bikes with 2 adult riders raises ire

(Shanghai Daily)

15:13, April 03, 2013

In nostalgic Chinese movies, boys frequently ride bicycles with their girlfriends on the back seats. Such scenes never fail to make the audience smile. However, sometimes romance has to give way to safety.

On March 26, Shanghai's Office of Legislative Affairs held a public hearing about new bicycle regulations. One of the most controversial proposals is the ban on carrying an adult on a bike (including an electric bike).

"Are we banned from carrying our girlfriend on our bike" was the question many asked when the proposal was announced.

Officials cited security concerns and some representatives agreed. In recent years, accidents involving non-motor vehicles constituted nearly half of all road accidents in Shanghai. Representatives argued that carrying adults makes the bicycles harder to control, therefore increasing the likelihood of accidents.

Opposition was also voiced. A policeman said many low-income families need to use bikes for practical transport, carrying two people. A ban would force them to purchase autos, increasing their financial burden. A college professor said whether carrying an adult on a bicycle would endanger road safety was debatable. The situation depends on factors such as a cyclist's skills and the passenger's weight, he said, adding the cyclist himself should decide.

The policeman's point about low-income people generated the most support on the Internet, where more fervent debate is underway. One Internet user described the proposed ban as "people driving four wheels dictating how people riding two wheels behave."

The needs of low-income people would be ignored by the ban, many said. adding that although more and more autos take to the road, many Chinese still use bicycles as their major means of transport. The proposal shows that some policymakers are out of touch with average people, they said.

Public safety should not be compromised because of Internet rage. The cold statistics teach us a lesson.

From October 2006 to October 2012, there were 7,919 accidents related to non-motor vehicles, accounting for 47.41 percent of all traffic accidents in Shanghai. Non-motor vehicles caused 2,569 deaths in the same period, or about 41 percent of all traffic-related death tolls in the city.

Since the issue is sensitive, the government is right to hold hearings as a first step. By putting controversies on the table, confrontations can be turned into constructive debates. Good points have been raised. Some people argue that most accidents are caused by irresponsible bicycle riders, not the fact that two people are onboard.

Many couples are still riding on Shanghai's roads everyday.

As they do this more for living than for romance, it is understandable that they resent the high-handedness of people sitting in cars. However, let's not forget that we live under the same sky. We are just learning how to compromise and this public hearing will be a valuable lesson.

The author is a freelancer from Singapore.

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