Shanghai bans e-scooters, but steeper fines needed

By Annabel Eaton Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/28 18:28:41

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Maybe more than anyone else, I was profoundly relieved to read the recent news that Shanghai has launched a new crackdown on scooters. Local authorities have at long last issued a citywide directive establishing, for the first time, fines and punishments against small-wheel e-scooters and one-wheeled or two-wheeled self-balancing personal transporters, according to local media reports.

Back in September, I penned an opinion article for the Global Times titled "Scooters should be banned from Shanghai sidewalks." I was mostly referring to motor-scooters, mopeds and e-bikes as opposed to the self-balancing small-wheel e-scooters that the new campaign targets, but I'll take this for now.

Unlike the millions of motorized scooters that are currently plaguing the sidewalks of Shanghai (with express delivery boys being the biggest and most unconscionable culprits) putting pedestrians at risk, small-wheel personal transporters are actually extremely dangerous to the drivers themselves.

If you've ever seen someone zipping down a busy street in Shanghai on one of these small transporters, you'll understand just how unsafe they are. Cars and buses are unable to see these low-riding scooters, making them prone to accidents.

Time and again, local media report on injures and even deaths involving white-collar commuters on their way to or from work while weaving through traffic on a transporter. Even with a helmet (which most Shanghai residents dislike using), it's like a two-wheeled death sentence. The new regulations are for their own good, because Shanghai is no longer safe for small-wheel personal transporters.

This city now has over 3 million cars on the roads, and with Shanghai leading China in the new electric vehicle market, even more private passenger cars are predicted in the near future. Our municipality is going to become one giant day-long traffic jam, and while I certainly sympathize with the need for personal transporters, e-scooters are a bad idea in Shanghai.

As are skateboards and roller skates, which under the new regulations are classified as "mobility tools" and thus, according to, are also now unlawful on all public streets. I'm sure a lot of local teenagers and expat hipsters won't be happy to hear this, but again, it's for their own good. If you want to skate, go to a park!

Last but not least, those funny-looking enclosed scooters and microcars that many senior citizens in Shanghai use will also be cracked down upon. It at first may seem heartless and low-hanging-fruit to target old people, but I know for a fact that many elderly people here have been moonlighting by using their enclosed mobility scooters as black taxis during rush hours.

You will often see these old-times in their little cabin-cycles speeding up and down the same boulevard every morning and every afternoon taking commuters to mid-distance destinations. It's not that I'm against the elderly earning a supplemental income, but that they are so darn dangerous about it - often running red lights and honking their way through pedestrian crossings. They put themselves and their passengers at an extreme risk, so I'm glad that police are finally fining them for their transgressions.

But herein remains my biggest problem with the new campaign: why are driving fines in Shanghai so small? According to local media, first-time small-wheel e-scooter offenders face fines of just 100 yuan ($14) while repeat offenders will only be fined 500 yuan. For senior-citizens, their mobility microcars will be temporarily seized and they will have to pay 200 yuan to 1,500 yuan to retrieve them. In cases where the vehicle is identified as motorized and the driver has no license, they will be fined 1,500 yuan.

These low fines make no sense. If you really want to stop people from driving dangerously, try fining them several thousand yuan, which will really sting. To quote myself in a July opinion article I wrote about this very topic, "steeper fines - which Shanghai bizarrely lacks despite being one of China's wealthiest cities - are the best deterrent."

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Posted in: TWOCENTS

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