Disabled scooters take place of banned motorbike taxis

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 January, 2007, 12:00am

Guangzhou's citywide ban on motorcycles has delivered a booming business to owners of special scooters for the handicapped, who are using their vehicles to transport people and goods.

Able-bodied touts are trying to muscle in on the trade, according to industry sources.

The city's ban on motorcycles and electric bicycles in urban areas came into effect on January 1 in an attempt to untangle traffic and reduce drive-by robberies that have long plagued Guangzhou.

But the ban also forced operators of the city's 100,000 or so motorcycle taxis to give up their illegal but profitable businesses.

The policy has benefited some owners of special scooters for the disabled who use their vehicles to ferry passengers and goods, with some saying the ban has at least doubled their business.

More than 20 special-scooter drivers were waiting for passengers outside a wholesale clothing market in Renminnan Road on Wednesday, including 41-year-old Mr Fang.

He said most of the drivers started work at 6am and could earn 150 yuan a day on average, about 50 per cent more than when they competed with motorcycle taxis.

Mr Fang said scooter taxis had operated outside the market for several years, but the number had tripled to about 50 at peak periods in the past fortnight.

More than half the scooter taxi touts outside the market appeared to have no difficulty walking and easily lifted customers' heavy goods on to the vehicles.

Mr Fang said some able-bodied opportunists had moved into their business by buying scooters from disabled people or renting the vehicles for 1,500 yuan to 2,000 yuan a month.

'I have found more able-bodied people [in the business] in the past several weeks,' he said. 'They are stealing from handicapped people because most customers choose them.'

Similar scooter taxis were also easy to find near the Guangzhou Railway Station, Yide Road and Shatai Road, where wholesale clothing, toy and shoe markets are located.

However, local reports said Guangzhou traffic police had begun to take action against them, with about 100 officers detaining 57 scooter taxi drivers during a raid outside a wholesale clothing market next to the railway station on Wednesday afternoon.

About 4,000 scooters for the handicapped are registered in Guangzhou, local media reports said.

The local disabled persons' federation said it was illegal for the scooters to be used as taxis, but the organisation had no right to punish the riders.

Several scooter passengers said they hoped the authorities would allow the handicapped to continue their 'taxi' service because it could provide much-needed income for their families.

One owner of a confiscated electric bicycle has filed a lawsuit challenging the ban.

Ye Cunhuan, 41, said she applied to Panyu District People's Court to have her electric bicycle returned after police took it last month, accusing her of 'adding an electric engine to a bicycle'.

A verdict is due by March 8. Three similar cases are expected to be heard in the next few months.