The government has confirmed those wishing to ride dockless e-bikes in a new Science Park trial will need full driving licences to take part, while riders must be pre-registered, stick to a fixed cycle track route and wear numbered armbands and cycle helmets while riding the machines.
The year-long trial, which largely apes the same rules and extent of e-mobility trials in 2020 and 2021 aims to study the impact of dockless pedal-assist e-bikes on cycle tracks around Science Park, and is launched in conjunction with Hong Kong bikeshare firm LocoBike.
Transport Department (TD) says it has granted a limited number of “movement permits” to the e-bikes, which would otherwise not be legal on public cycle paths.
Users who are pre-registered and approved, and who have experience riding e-bikes or bicycles and a driving licence, are welcome to apply, while the bike rental will be free of charge for those users.
But LocoBike says all registration slots were already assigned on the first day of the trial. The firm says it will consider a new round of applications later in the year.
The lucky chosen ones may ride the pedal-assist e-bikes on a 4 km fixed route between MTR University Station and upscale development Mayfair By The Sea.
TD says the trial, which will end on 30 March 2024, aims at gathering “more operating experience for the shared use of power-assisted pedal cycles on cycle tracks for short-distance commuting between a workplace/living area and a major transport hub.”
But officials poured cold water on the idea of any trial or law change helping the legions of food delivery riders who make up the bulk of e-bike riders in the city, and who generally need to ride on roads, not cycle tracks.
“We consider that [e-bikes] should not be permitted to use on footpaths (pavement) and carriageways (it may worth noting the experiences in Singapore and France),” said a spokeswoman, without elaborating on what experiences from Singapore and France were relevant to e-bikes.
In fact, while France recently proposed to ban dockless e-scooters on environmental and safety grounds, e-bikes are welcomed and even encouraged, with massive subsidies for people swapping cars for e-bikes and e-cargo bikes.
And in Singapore, a growing list of 47 approved e-bikes are welcome on all roads and shared paths. 46 of those 47 models approved by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority are made in China, with many of them built in Shenzhen and Greater Bay Area
Transport officials also rejected any talk of trialling e-cargo bikes in the city, claiming “its [sic] design and construction appear not in compliance with the international standards of motor vehicles and prevalent regulatory requirements for registration and licensing.”
Transit Jam has asked TD to clarify its meaning, given many companies around the world now use e-cargo bikes, with bikes from many of the leading brands built to exacting international standards.
London’s mayor last week announced a comprehensive plan to replace up to 100 million van kilometres with e-cargo bike journeys by 2030, while UK car maintenance leader Kwik-Fit now offers e-cargo bike servicing alongside cars and vans at several key locations.