LCQ7: Electric mobility devices

     Following is a question by the Hon Stanley Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, in the Legislative Council today (October 26):
     There are views that electric mobility devices (including electric skateboards, electric scooters, electric unicycles, electric bicycles, pedelecs and electric hoverboards) (EMDs) are apt to give rise to road safety issues. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the annual volumes of retained imports and sales of various types of EMDs in the past three years;
(2) of the current measures for regulating the sale and purchase of EMDs;
(3) as it is learnt that the quality of batteries used in EMDs varies, and liquid leakage or fire caused by overheating may occur, whether the Government has compiled statistics on the number of related accidents happened in the past three years, and whether it has formulated measures to regulate the safety of such batteries; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) whether the Government has, since January 2019, collected data on traffic accidents involving EMDs (including location of the accident, age of the driver and cause of the accident) and conducted analyses; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(5) of the number of law enforcement actions taken by the Government in the past three years against unlawful acts involving the use of EMDs, and the penalties imposed (set out the information by type of unlawful acts);
(6) in respect of those people who were involved in the casualties or suffered from property losses in the traffic or other accidents which were caused by other people's illegal use of EMDs, how the Government protects such people's rights and interests; and
(7) given that the Government is considering a regulatory framework for EMDs, and launched in May this year a six-month pilot trial on a cycle track section, whether the Government will, upon completion of the trial, (i) formulate a timetable for regulating EMDs, and (ii) formulate measures to ensure that drivers of EMDs have the necessary knowledge and awareness of road safety; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     In consultation with the Security Bureau, the Hong Kong Police Force (Police), the Fire Services Department (FSD), the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) and the Transport Department (TD), my reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Hon Stanley Li is as follows:

(1) and (2) According to the C&SD, no separate commodity codes are designated to electric mobility devices (EMDs) including electric skateboards, electric scooters, electric unicycles, electric bicycles, power assisted pedal cycles (also known as pedelecs) and electric hoverboards, etc., under the Hong Kong Harmonized System. As the respective commodity codes are shared with other vehicles, the import quantities of these devices are not available.

     EMDs, which are mechanically propelled vehicles, fall within the definition of "motor vehicles" under the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374) (the Ordinance). All "motor vehicles" must be licensed for use on roads or private roads, but it is the long-standing policy that the TD does not register or license EMDs under the Ordinance due to considerations of road safety and accessibility. It is an offence to use such unregistered and unlicensed devices on roads. Besides, the Ordinance provides that no person shall sell, supply or hire any motor vehicle which is not in compliance with the Ordinance with respect to its construction, weight, equipment or maintenance, or any motor vehicle in such a condition that danger is or is likely to be caused by it to any person, unless the person has reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle will not be used on a road.

(3), (4) and (5) According to the Police's statistics as at September 30 this year, there were 18, 27 and 11 accidents involving EMDs in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively. The Police and the TD did not maintain a breakdown of these accidents. The respective numbers of arrests made were 285, 217 and 179, and the offences involved include using a motor vehicle without third party insurance, which is liable to a maximum fine of $10,000, 12-month imprisonment and disqualification from holding a driving licence for one to three years; driving an unregistered vehicle, which is subject to a fine of $5,000 and three-month imprisonment for first offenders and a fine of $10,000 and six-month imprisonment for repeated offenders; and driving without a valid driving licence, which is liable to the same penalties for driving an unregistered vehicle. The Police and the TD did not maintain statistics on the relevant penalties imposed by courts. According to the statistics as at October 15 this year, the FSD handled 11, 10 and nine fire incidents involving EMDs in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively.

(6) and (7) In view of the increasing popularity of the use of EMDs in Hong Kong in recent years, the Government is exploring ways to enhance the regulation on such devices, which include drawing reference from practices in other jurisdictions/cities, with due consideration of the dense population and high vehicular traffic flow in Hong Kong.

     In order to gain actual operating experience in the regulation of EMDs, the TD conducted site trials on sections of cycle tracks in Tseung Kwan O South and on those adjacent to the Hong Kong Science Park in 2021. Currently, the TD is working with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation on a six-month pilot trial, which started in May this year, to gather information on the use of EMDs on the cycle track between the MTR University Station and Fo Yin Road for short-distance commuting. The Government will carefully analyse and review the trial results as well as the practices in other jurisdictions/cities, conduct detailed discussions with the relevant departments and gauge the views of stakeholders for further formulation of a regulatory framework on EMDs, and report to the Legislative Council in due course.

     In addition, the TD has all along been collaborating with the Road Safety Council and the Police in launching various publicity and educational activities to promote road safety among road users. The messages on the prohibition of the use of EMDs on roads are publicised through various channels, including a short video clip jointly produced by the Police and the Radio Television Hong Kong, publications produced and distributed by the TD, the TD's website and social media platforms of the Road Safety Council, etc. The Government will continue to enhance safety awareness among road users through publicity and educational efforts.

Ends/Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:00