Police have hit e-bike riders hard in coordinated operations across Tai Po, Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai, Sheung Shui and Cheung Chau last week, despite signals that the machines may soon be legalised.
14 riders, aged from 23 to 64, were arrested for the usual slate of charges involving e-bikes: riding an unlicensed motor vehicle, riding without insurance, riding without a licence and riding without a helmet.
The action on Cheung Chau, which saw a small shopping bike seized and a 26-year-old man arrested, has raised questions on why local officers sporadically target low-powered machines but consistently ignore the use of high-powered electric tricycles. Earlier this year a five-year-old girl died in an incident involving such an electric tricycle: the driver of that machine has been summonsed for driving an unlicensed vehicle, driving without insurance and careless driving.
Police did not comment on that case but in a statement on the latest arrests, they said “[t]he Police will continue to strictly enforce the law to protect the safety of the public.”
“Electric mobility tools are not suitable for use on the road with ordinary vehicles, nor are they suitable for use on sidewalks or cycle tracks,” they added.
Last week, sources close to the Secretary of Transport and Logistics told Transit Jam the government would legalise such devices, including e-bikes and e-scooters below a certain power, in 2023.
The source says the legal framework would likely be along the lines already mooted by Transport Department (TD) for its trial operations: this would see only devices bearing CE marks and meeting certain technical standards allowed, and then only for use on dedicated cycle tracks. It is thought helmets would be mandatory, in-line with government plans to make helmets mandatory for cyclists and aligning with government e-mobility trial protocols.
But Transport Department has refused to confirm the news, saying only that it would continue to “gauge the views of stakeholders for further formulation of a regulatory framework on [electric mobility devices]”.
The government is currently running a trial allowing certain e-bikes and e-scooters to use a portion of the cycle track around Hong Kong Science Park.
E-scooter maker Boris Yim says there is “so much interest in the city but this trial is limited to Science Park people only”. Only 40 riders have signed up in the first five months trial, according to government figures.
Yim says he is planning to hold an e-mobility “marathon” on the trial track before the trial ends at the end of November.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the man involved with the e-tricycle death on Cheung Chau had not been charged with any offence. In fact he was summonsed for “Driving an Unlicensed Vehicle”, “Using a Vehicle without Third Party Insurance” and “Careless Driving”, according to police. We regret the error.