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Police urge electric bike regulation rethink

Update: September, 26/2013 - 08:00
A policeman stops two young students on an electric bike in Ha Noi. As more electric bicycles hit the road, the number of dangerous violations is also increasing, according to the National Traffic Safety Committee. — VNS File Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — Nguyen Thu Lan didn't think her high-school age daughter was ready for a motorbike, so she bought an electric bicycle for her to drive to school.

"It's easy to drive and quite safe," the Ha Noi mother said.

However, it might not be as safe as she believes.

As more electric bicycles hit the road, the number of dangerous violations is also increasing, said Nguyen Hoang Hiep, deputy chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee.

"Electric bicycles pose the same risk of causing traffic accidents as motorbikes, so management authorities need to quickly create regulations to prevent such accidents from happening," Hiep said.

Recently, electric bicycles have become a popular means of transport for young people due to their convenience and attractive design.

Many parents like Lan are rushing to buy them for their kids, even though they cost from VND8-12 million (US$376-564) – double the cost of ordinary bikes.

However, the quality of electric bicycles varies widely; moreover, there are few regulations governing their usage, leading to dangerous practices.

Last month, a high school girl driving an electric bicycle without a helmet died in a collision with a car at Le Van Luong-Hoang Minh Giam crossroads, near Ha Noi-Amsterdam High School.

Near other high schools such as Viet Duc, Nguyen Trai, Phan Dinh Phung and Le Quy Don, many students have been spotted driving three or four abreast, carrying an excessive number of passengers and not wearing helmets.

Fines for violators are between VND75,000-150,000 ($3.5-7.1).

Electric bicycle drivers don't need driving licenses or registration papers, so the police can't seize violators' vehicles, said Pham Van Hau, deputy head of the Ha Noi Police Department's Traffic Police Office.

"We have worked with the departments of education and training to notify schools about students' violations, but this method is not effective. A simple warning is not strict enough," Hau said.

The quality of electric bicycles is also a major issue for both authorities and consumers. Many bicycles are designed to go up to 50kph, as fast as motorbikes. But the brakes and wheels are much smaller than those of motorbikes, causing danger for drivers.

Trinh Van Ngoc, head of Ha Noi Market Watch, said that the lack of rules governing design meant that inspectors could not exercise control over bicycle quality.

Experts said the ministry of transport should increase fines or even seize violators' vehicles.

The ministry has asked the Viet Nam Register Department to submit a circular on national standards for electric bicycles to the ministry by next month. — VNS


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