Silent but Deadly
Crossing a road to grab a cup of coffee. Picking up the dry-cleaning. Walking into you hotel lobby. No place in China is safe from the electric motorbike. Unlike motorized scooters, which these hybrid bike replaced, there is no pollution, which conservative estimates claim contributed to the death of more than 750k Chinese a year. However, as goes the motor, so goes the sound, making these bikes nothing more than poorly aimed 80 lbs. missiles.
Of course, Chinese drivers are the real concern. They are not especially talented at avoiding accidents, some may say that they tend to cause them. Some Chinese I met attribute their lack of behind-the-wheel capabilities to that fact that they only recently began driving, and tend to operate their cars like they did their pedal bicycles. If you stare out into the spaghetti of traffic that clogs most cities in China, you get the sense you are watching every 16-year-old boy in America take to the wheel for the first time, no appreciable skills outside of a sense of invincibility and the ability to decorate a dashboard with trinkets for good luck.
Roger Olesen, a former USA World Team member, who the New Yorker once referred to as the Boswell of Wrestling, has lived and worked in Beijing for six years and seen the transportation maturation take place.. His thoughts seem to best sum up the danger most tourists feel navigating past the feeder bike lanes that are now overpopulated by these electric bikes, “Somebody is going to hit and killed by one of those things, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be me.”
But at least we won’t all choke to death on carcinogens. The price of progress, folks.