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New rules class electric bikes as lightweight scooters - and follow Chinese crackdown that could hit poor and migrant workers hardest

Taiwan’s Transport Ministry has proposed law changes that mean electric bike riders will need a licence and a helmet to ride.

Reported by the Taipei Times, the changes come amid a reported increase in collisions and traffic violations involving riders of some of the country’s 180,000 electric bicycles.

While e-bikes are highly popular in many European countries, notably among older people, and are subject to the same rules as pedal cycles, in Taiwan they will soon be legally defined as a lightweight scooter, if changes to the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act are enacted. Riders will need to pass a written and practical test to ride one. The changes follow a series of e-bike clampdowns in China.

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According to police statistics the number of people injured by electric bikes rose from 369 in 2011 to 1,495 in Taiwan last year – meaning one in every 120 of the country’s bikes was involved in a crash in the 12 months of 2015 - while the death toll rose from zero to four in the same period.

E-bikes will no longer be permitted on pavements, following complaints about risks posed to pedestrians. Manufacturers will need to ensure the bike’s maximum speed – set at 25kph - can’t be increased, while E-bikes sold after July 1 must carry a new larger certification label.

In China, meanwhile, e-bike riders have suffered repeated crackdowns, with Shenzhen city police banning e-bikes from 90 per cent of city roads in 2012, on the grounds they compete with motor cars and run red lights. According to Sixth Tone, police announced last month that a quarter of the 431 road traffic deaths in the previous 12 months involved some of the city’s 4 million e-bikes and reportedly confiscated 18,000 e-bikes and detained 8,000 riders in ten just days in March in a bid to eradicate what is branded a “silent killer”.

Shortly afterwards Beijing police banned e-bikes from several major streets in the city centre.

Some believe such moves are discriminatory against migrant workforces who rely heavily on e-bikes for cheap transportation. In the mid-1990s policies were introduced banning or restricting motorbikes in large Chinese cities, which helped boost e-bike popularity.