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Electric Two-Wheelers in China: Effect on Travel Behavior, Mode Shift, and User Safety Perceptions in a Medium-Sized City

UCD-ITS-RP-08-19

Research Report

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Suggested Citation:
Weinert, Jonathan X., Chaktan Ma, Xinmiao Yang, Christopher R. Cherry (2008) Electric Two-Wheelers in China: Effect on Travel Behavior, Mode Shift, and User Safety Perceptions in a Medium-Sized City. Transportation Research Record 2038, 62 - 68

Despite rapid economic growth in China during the past decade and the rise in personal car ownership, most Chinese still rely on two-wheeled vehicles (2WVs) or public transport for commuting. The majority of these 2WVs are bicycles. In recent years, concern about poor air quality in urban areas and rising energy costs have caused cities to ban gasolinepowered scooters in city centers. Simultaneously, a new 2WV mode emerged to fill the void: the electric bike (e-bike). This shift to e-bikes is occurring rapidly throughout China, especially in its cities. E-bike sales reached 10 million per year in 2005 as more bike and public transit users shifted to this mode. City planners and policy makers are undecided on how to plan for and regulate e-bikes because it is not yet clear what effect they will have on travel behavior, public transportation use, and safety. To begin to understand these effects, bike and e-bike users were surveyed in Shijiazhuang, a medium-size city with particularly high 2WV use, to identify differences in travel characteristics and attitudes. The following conclusions were reached (partial list): (a) e-bikes are enabling people to commute longer distances, with important implications for energy use, accessibility, and urban expansion of cities; (b) people underserved by public transportation are shifting to e-bikes; and (c) women feel safer crossing intersections on an e-bike compared with a regular bike, but they have strong reservations about increasing e-bike speed capability.