Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: EPA's green bicycle plan generates mixed response

GREEN POWER The organization's air quality protection and noise control department said that the measure was meant to encourage the use of eco-friendly transportation

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) plan to subsidize electrically assisted pedal cycles has generated mixed reactions among the public.

Based on its proposed plan, the administration will give each buyer NT$3,000 as a subsidy for every electrically assisted pedal cycle they purchase. The special offer will expire in November 2009.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications defined "electrically assisted pedal cycles" as those powered primarily by pedaling and secondarily by electricity.

On the other hand, "electrical bicycles" refer to those powered completely by the electricity.

For both types of bicycles, the maximum operating speed cannot exceed 25kph. The weight of these two types bicycles must be 40kg or below.

The EPA's air quality protection and noise control department said on Tuesday that the measure was meant to be an incentive for substituting the use of gasoline-powered motorcycles with more eco-friendly transportation.

The department also said that the EPA in the past has subsidized buyers of electric motorcycles.

The policy, however, was proven to be ineffective, as a majority of motorists did not find the electrically powered motorcycles to be a practical option.

So rather than subsidizing those purchasing electrical bicycles, the EPA decided to provide financial support only for those buying electrically assisted pedal cycles.

The department said that the EPA has planned to subsidize the purchase of about 4,000 electrically assisted pedal cycles a year.

Lee Chao-yi (李昭屹), a bicycle shop owner in Hualian, said the retail price of an electrically assisted bicycle could be between NT$16,800 and NT$19,800. An electrical bicycle could cost up to NT$30,000.

He said buyers of the electrically assisted bicycles are either for those who need to do grocery shopping or those who do not wish to apply for driver's licenses for motor scooters.

While Lee knew that customers who can afford to buy these electrically assisted bicycles probably do not need any subsidy, he noted that they will take advantage of it anyway.

"It's like government-funded allowance for seniors, which is really nothing," he said. "But having something is better than having nothing, right?"

Environmentalists are also dubious about the effectiveness of the measure.

"I appreciate the fact that the government is seriously considering increasing the use of `green transportation tools,'" said Chou Sheng-shin (周聖心), the event coordinator for the Thousand Mile Trail Project. "But my concern is that cyclists have not secured their right of way on the road."

Chou said some shop owners told her that an electrically assisted bicycle could be customized in ways enabling it to run almost as fast as a scooter. She said but unlike motorcyle or scooter owners, those who own an electrically assisted bicycle do not pay raod taxes. Nor are they required to have a driver's license to operate it, she said.

In July, the ministry listed bicycles, electrically assisted bicycles and electrical bicycles under the category of "slow-moving vehicles" in the Act Governing the Punishment of Violation of Road Traffic Regulations (道路交通管理處罰條例).

Among three types of slow-moving vehicles, the ministry has only recognized bicycles and electrically assisted bicycles as legal transportation tools. The ministry has yet to give the right of way for electrical bicycles.

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