Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Scooter Scene in Shanghai, China

I recently visited Shanghai and was very surprised to see a thriving scooter scene. I wouldn't say scooters are as prevalent as they are in other asian countries (think Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, etc.), but they are definitely a popular means of transportation. However, there are some notable differences with the scooters in Shanghai than in other parts of the world (that I've experienced atleast).

1. I would say more than 25% of the scooters are electric. I was in Beijing earlier this year and saw the same type of scooters there - however, they were much more prevalent in Beijing, comprising what seemed to be 90% or more of all scooters on the street. I did not recognize a consistent brand, but then again, I didn't stare at any close up. Also, the labeling of the scooters makes it hard to tell what the exact maker is - "Super scooter 100", doesn't really tell me its made by X company" (and some of the scooters looked to be unbranded). Further, these electric scooters are much smaller in profile than the the typical 125cc gas scooter - they are much slimmer, and the tires are considerably smaller, looking halfway between a bike tire and a scooter tire. How do you tell if a scooter is electric? The dead giveaway is the size, but also the lack of muffler. One more thing to note - I almost was hit by an electric scooter as I did not hear it approach - they are dead quiet! With the street noise of cars, etc., they are very hard to hear - be warned!

2. Less than half the people wear helmets. Very common to see people riding around with just a jacket on - no eye protection (maybe glasses), no helmet, etc. And strange as it may sound, the farther you get away from the city, the more helmets you see. I went to a town about 40 miles west of Shanghai city, and was surprised to see more riders wearing helmets - and this is on wide open, non-crowded roads. Shouldn't it be the other way? Perhaps more open --> greater speed --> wear helmet?

3. Profile of scooter users is pretty broad - woman, men, old, young, etc. No real theme here. I saw a woman, who must of been in her 40s/50s, riding along one of the busiest streets in Shanghai like it was no big deal (no helmet either).

4. Bicycles are still very popular in China. Many people still bike around on vintage looking bicycles (think one gear) - pretty cool. Also, mo-peds are popular as well (think bicycle with tiny engine).

5. In the rural areas, not uncommon to see 3 or 4 people on one scooter. Wife, husband, and two kids often ride around.

6. Gas is cheap in Shanghai, due to government subsidies. I think the gas prices were 50% or less of what the US consumers pay. Interesting to note, but China has banned gas motorcycles/scooters in many provinces, saying it contributes to the smog/pollution (which is horrible in China, Beijing and Shanghai especially). I find that odd as most of the pollution in China is due to industry factories, not scooters!

Can you see pollution?

Gas Scooter!

Police Motorycycle

Close Parking



Chinese Helmet (Helicopter Helmet?)

40-Miles Outside Shanghai

NSR (Not Scooter Related)

1 comment:

sergeibelski said...

Great post! Don't stop posting, always fun reading and looking at photos from you!