Clearing up the confusion about using e-bikes

Electric bike shop in Raxabagu, corner Juan Luna st in Tondo Manila, said sales of electric bikes are increasing due to continued increase in fuel prices this Tuesday, June 14, 2022. It is said to be less than three or four Electric bicycles are selling out every day, rather than using a gas-powered vehicle. PHOTO BY JOHN RYAN BALDEMOR

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has announced that it will tighten rules for the use of electric bicycles and scooters.

It will do so because the number of accidents involving electric two-wheelers is on the rise.

Victor Nuñez, of the MMDA’s Traffic Discipline Office for Enforcement, said the agency had been lenient in enforcing regulations on e-bike use because public transport was scarce during the height of the storm. Covid epidemic.

Meanwhile, many employees commuting to work have found riding a manual bike or electric bike more convenient than waiting in line for hours for a bus or jeepney ride.

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Just as more public rides became available as Covid restrictions were lifted, the fallout from the Russian-Ukrainian war hit the country, sending fuel prices through the roof. Jeepney drivers, discouraged by the ever-lower income they bring home, consider quitting driving altogether and looking for another job.

With fewer jeepneys and other public transport, more commuters are expected to switch to alternative modes of transportation like e-bikes.

Nuñez also says e-bikes and e-scooters are growing in popularity among young people. With in-person classes resuming soon, he expects the number of e-bikes to increase significantly.

So will e-bike accidents, Nuñez said. Last year, the MMDA reported 346 road accidents involving electric vehicles in Metro Manila. From January to May this year, there were 82 accidents.

Critics were quick to denounce the MMDA’s decision, saying the government should encourage, not restrict, a switch to electric “people carriers” as a solution to choking traffic, worsening air pollution air and soaring fuel prices.

One thing is certain: e-bikes are here to stay. Globally, the electric bicycle and scooter market is expected to grow from $20.71 billion in 2021 to $23.38 billion this year.

China alone has 300 million e-bikes on its roads. And Beijing is constantly adjusting its regulatory policies to keep up with the rise. He has come up with new standards governing the weight, top speed and voltage of e-bikes. Bikes that are not classified cannot be registered.

Chinese e-bike makers are also targeting upwardly mobile youth. “What we sell is not just a transportation tool,” explained the CEO of a Chinese e-bike company. “It’s a platform for people to have a better life.”

The market potential in the Philippines for e-bikes is equally attractive. A study by covering the period 2017 to 2022 found that e-bikes and e-trikes became a key coping mechanism for economically struggling Filipinos during the first 18 months of the pandemic.

“Closures, social distancing that reduces the capacity and predictability of public transport, and the high cost of taxis and alternative means of transport have made manual and electric bicycles and trikes extremely attractive,” notes the study.

But even before the pandemic, local e-bike assemblers and distributors complained about confusing government guidelines on the classification of electric two-wheelers. It was unclear, for example, whether e-bikes needed to be registered with the Bureau of Land Transport or whether e-bikers needed to obtain a driver’s license.

In 2021, the LTO issued a directive that defined the specific rules governing e-bikes. Basically, it decreed that electric bicycles and scooters with a maximum speed of 25 kilometers per hour do not require registration. Their riders are not required to obtain a driver’s license.

But the directive also limits these e-bikes to barangay roads and cycle paths.

E-bikes with a maximum speed of 50 km/h must be registered with the LTO and their users must hold a driving license.

All e-bikes and e-scooters can only cross national roads by crossing another barangay road.

Nuñez made it clear that the MMDA did not want to ban e-bikes and e-scooters. “We only ask for proper discipline and real caution in using electric vehicles and knowing their road limitations,” he said.

The MMDA would be wise to launch an extensive information campaign before fully enforcing the e-bike rules. He must emphasize that road safety and discipline are paramount, regardless of the vehicle driven.

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