Kaieteur News – Electric bikes have arrived. They are being sold in Guyana and used on its roads.
These bikes present no threat on our roadways because they do not travel at a fast rate. In fact, if someone is being towed on one of these bikes, a pedestrian can outpace it.
The brands, which are flooding the local market, have the appearance of a motorcycle but operate on electricity. However, Guyana has had dual-use bicycles for more than 10 years. This latter cycle use normal bicycle pedals, but there is the option of switching over to battery power, which some riders do when riding against the wind.
No one protested over the non-regulation of these battery-powered bicycles. In addition, the reason for this was that they never posed the same threat to the commercial interests of motorcycle dealers as the present e-bikes.
The present e-bikes (which have the appearance of a mini motorcycle rather than a bicycle) do not pose any safety problems to motor vehicles. Electric bikes are permitted and can use the road lanes set aside for bicycles and motorcycles. But because we have penchant in Guyana for permitting businesses alongside public roads and because the customers of these businesses like to park within the bicycle lanes, cyclists often have to straddle both the cycle lane and those which are used by motor cars and vans. But this problem is being exaggerated to make it appear that the electric bikes are making our roads less safe.
The electric bikes, however, do not move themselves on the road. They have to be steered and that is done by the person driving them. So if there is any blame to be cast for unsafe use of electric bikes, it has to be placed at the feet or hands of those using them.
There is no traffic safety problem with these bikes. But one can understand why some persons are going to get upset with these bikes.
For one, their local consumption is reducing the sale of petrol-powered motorcycles. The cost of the electric bikes is competitive compared to motorcycles and many persons find them handy for travelling short distances.
Many persons are opting for the electric bikes, which can be had for sums between $100,000 and $150,000. This is far cheaper than comparable petrol-fired motorcycles. The e-bikes are affordable for the average person, who may not be able to afford a comparable motorcycle. And this is increasing the demand for them much to the consternation of some.
It is therefore understandable that sections of the business community, facing this new and unexpected competition, are going to be worried about the loss of sales. But electric bikes are not going to put any dealership out of business because the bikes are not suitable – at least not the ones on sale in Guyana – for long distances and are not known for speed.
The electric bikes have cheaper running costs. The cost of electricity is cheaper than the cost of gasoline and because it is not motorised you are not required to take out a motor vehicle licence or apply for a certificate of fitness from the police.
Under our laws, these bikes are not considered as motorised and as such, the police cannot stop and ask for documents. The riders do not have to be licensed to use them. Those policemen therefore who love to carry out random stops on motorcyclists are likely therefore to be very upset because of the number of persons whom they cannot harass and who are using electric bikes. These seedy ranks are therefore among those who will be opposed to the use of electric bikes.
But they do not have to worry for long. The government is likely to move in the direction of passing legislation to license these bikes. There are forces, which are likely to influence the government to bring electric bikes under some form of regulation.
The stage is being set for forcing the government to bring these electric bikes under greater purview of the Road Traffic Act. As more electric bikes flood the market, the government’s commitment to working class interests – these bikes are a blessing for poor people – is going to be tested. The police and the business class will love nothing better than to be able to regulate these bikes.
The honeymoon which electric bikes enjoy are about to end. Despite electric bikes being emissions free, the government is expected – as it so often does – to bow to the powerful business lobby and to require licensing, registration of electric bikes and certification of their road worthiness and riders.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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