NOTE: This is the UNEDITED version of the article that was submitted to the Shenzhen Daily, and published on April 20, 2015.
E-bikes and scooters have been banned in this city for many years now. For some, they are a bane on society. For others, they are the most practical way to commute or do business. The reality is that while they are banned, the laws enforcing their illegality is rarely enforced. As a result, shops that sell them abound all over Shenzhen, they are driven on roads and footpaths, and they have become an essential part of life in Shenzhen.
The question is clearly, what does the city of Shenzhen do about it? Do they crack down on them more often? Crackdowns are the traditional method of collecting those that break the law, but it has done little to stop the numerous bikes from flowing over the streets and footpaths of Shenzhen.
What about closing the shops? Clearly, if the shops are not able to sell them, people will not be able to buy them. While it would stop the problem in the short term, the stores would simply re-open online, or in border areas in Dongguan and Huizhou. I am sure that Jack Ma would appreciate the business of e-bikes and scooters booming even further.
The most practical measure, however, is the opposite of these. If you look at the American states of Colorado and Washington, they legalised and regulated cannabis. Colorado is now making substantial amounts of money in taxes from a sales tax on marijuana, which it is spending on its education budget.
Now, some readers would ask how marijuana and e-bikes work together, but the answer is quite simple.
The city of Shenzhen should legalise e-bikes and scooters with a view to regulate them. The city could incorporate the regulation of them in a similar way to the regulation of cars. With the car business not being busy with the new laws around car sales, regulating e-bikes and scooters would be a highly lucrative revenue stream for the city.
There are several revenue streams here. The first is the licensing of the e-bike or scooters. A fee would need to be paid to have it licensed and that needs to be renewed on an annual basis. Since almost all the scooters are not designed to have a metal numberplate, I would suggest a sticker across the front of the scooters. Alternatively, the e-bikes could use a sticker or a metal numberplate on the top of the metal basket that many e-bikes have on the front of the bike.
The second revenue stream is licensing the drivers. Testing the drivers and making sure that their licenses are up to date would keep the staff involved busy, and annual renewals of the license requires a renewal fee – an additional revenue fee.
The third revenue stream is actual enforcement of the law. Yes, this requires more police or whatever, but if people are riding without a license or riding an unlicensed e-bike or scooter, the fine can be much heavier than before. The system needs to be set up to make sure that there is an incentive to register your e-bike or scooter, as well as get your license to ride one, rather than risk a heavy fine, losing your vehicle and potentially time in a detention center. These people can also be used to enforce the road rules, which might improve the safety on the roads for all its users.
These three revenue streams would result in increased money for the City of Shenzhen, less danger on the roads and improvements for everybody overall.