Development of Urban Mobility Innovation in China: The Case of E-Bike

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Arcade Courtyard (Main Building)
Dennis ZUEV, Independent Scholar, Russia
The studies of socio-technical transition including transition to low-carbon mobility systems have so far focused primarily on the formal side of transportation but have missed out informal sector which defines the cities in developing world (Sengers and Raven, 2014). In this presentation the case of e-bike mobility is used as a window to analyse the social transformation in Chinese society. I will focus on major challenges for e-bike users in China in the context of the overall tightening policies towards e-bike mobility but at the same time increasing demand for cheap individual environmentally friendly mobility solutions.  User-led innovation in the domain of e-bikes in China already demonstrates the potential use of e-bikes in the future and on global scale (eg. as cargo, delivery vehicles). The data obtained from the extensive fieldwork in the framework of “Low Carbon Innovation in China” project show: 1) The role of e-bike innovation for Chinese urbanization is underestimated and overlooked, 2) Regulation of e-bike mobility in Chinese cities is highly fragmented, 3) E-bike users (often despite their simultaneous possession of cars) are regarded as people with a lower education and socio-cultural status (suzhi), thus downgrading two-wheeled mobility and emphasizing automobility as a true indicator of high social standing.  The presentation will discuss various "bads" and "goods"  of e-bike mobility as seen primarily by actual users and opponents to its use in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing as well as  potential scenarios of e-bike mobility development in China.