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November 21, 2011

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Souped-up expats breaking the law

EXPATS zooming around Shanghai's streets on souped-up scooters are unaware that they are breaking the law, experts warned yesterday.

Growing numbers of foreigners, looking to maneuver nimbly on the city's busy roads, are buying scooters and mopeds.

And many cannot resist getting these customized to make them more powerful and eye-catching.

However, many expats are unaware that this work breaks the law and prevents vehicles from being licensed.

Kim Joe-nam, a South Korean student at a Shanghai university, who had his moped's appearance customized, said he was stopped by city traffic police and fined 200 yuan (US$ 31.4) for not having a license.

"No one told me I needed a license in any case," said Kim.

However, Even if Kim had known, it would have made no difference, as police do not issue license plates for customized mopeds or scooters.

This is a key reason why there are more mopeds and scooters riding on the roads without licenses than with, experts said.

"The market is way out of order," said Guo Jianrong, secretary general of Shanghai Bicycle Industry Association.

According to Guo, there are around 2.8 million licensed electric scooters in Shanghai and more than 3 million without licenses.

Licenses are issued for scooters and mopeds with a top speed of 20 kilometers per hour, plus a weight limit, according to traffic regulations.

But during routine checks, police found that 80 percent of vehicles stopped exceeded limits.

Guo admitted the regulations, issued more than 10 years ago, "lag behind" and called for a higher speed limit.

Police have their own concerns. Up to the end of last month, traffic accidents involving bicycles, mopeds and scooters this year accounted for more than 269 deaths - more than 40 percent of all traffic fatalities in Shanghai.

In most cases, riders bore at least as much responsibility as car drivers, say police. Some officers say the situation is "getting worse."

Local residents have also complained about riders, including foreign students, racing on souped-up mopeds, especially in the city's Yangpu and Hongkou districts where several universities are located.


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