A RMB 1,500 license plate and a foul mouth may have cost a foreigner his privilege of living and working in China.
Don’t fall into the same trap: get a license and register your scooter properly. Here’s how.
Electric scooters: the good news is that under Beijing traffic law, electric scooters are classified as bicycles, in part to encourage the use of these no/low-emission vehicles. Therefore, no license is required to ride one, and they can be registered for RMB 10 at just about any local police station, the same place where you register your visa and residency. Bring your passport and the fa piao (official receipt, received at purchase), which should have the vehicle’s serial number on it. If you are buying a second-hand scooter, make sure you get the original purchase fa piao at the time of transfer.
Gasoline/Petrol Scooters: What you are buying is considered a motorcycle under Beijing vehicular law. That requires a motorcycle license to ride it legally for the driver, and proper registration to take it on the road.
Getting a Motorcycle Driver’s License. There are three categories of license, according to our regular Forum contributor Richard Thwaites, aka Biker, who currently owns three legal scooters: "F" – rare for someone to get this, but it does exist. It is for the <50cc bikes, with a maximum speed of 50 km/h; "E" – the most common motorcycle license. This allows you to drive any two-wheeled gas-powered motorcycle, of any displacement; and "D" – common. This allows you to also drive a three-wheeled motorcycle (i.e., the sidecar type). The "D" type includes the "E" and "F" categories. A "D" license, therefore, allows you to drive any two-wheeled or three-wheeled, gas powered motorcycle.
Both a written and practical driving test are required to obtain these licenses if you do not have a current overseas motorcycle license. With a current license, depending on the country of issue, you will most likely only take the written test, which can be done in Chinese or English. To be eligible for a motorcycle license, you must be able to provide the following:
- Passport (with visa valid for at least three months)
- Residence Permit (valid beyond six months)
- Copy of overseas driver’s license (if you have one)
- Translation of overseas driver’s license (with translator’s signature and stamp, again, if you have one)
- 4, 1 x 1″ photos with white background
- Driver’s Physical Exam Certificate from an authorized hospital in Beijing (you will need a photo for this too)
- Driver’s License Application Form
The Foreign Affairs Department of Beijing Motor Vehicle Administration is located near the southeast corner of the Fourth Ring Road. You’ll have to get 90 percent of the written test correct in order to pass.
Registering a Gasoline/Petrol Scooter: One important thing to note is that the Beijing Motor Vehicle Administration no longer issues plates for motorcycles, which means they are in relatively short supply, which means that getting one is a bit of a deal in itself. There are two kinds of plates: "’A’ plated bikes can go anywhere (a few exceptions). ‘B’ plated bikes are restricted to staying outside the Fourth Ring Road," writes Thwaites in his superb FAQ on the subject.
Although A plates would seem preferable, they have a current market value of RMB 50,000-60,000. B plates cost about RMB 1,500. However, the maximum fine is RMB 200 for a B plate used inside the Fourth Ring Road, so maybe B is where it’s at right now.
For new scooters, the shop should help to register your new vehicle. For used bikes, consider using an agent. "Trust me – you want an agent. The agent deals with all of the paperwork to get your bike properly registered, plated and insured. I have bought many new bikes in Beijing, and I once tagged along with the agent to see exactly what he did. Money well spent, as if I tried to navigate myself through the endless bureaucracy I would probably still be trying to get my bike registered," Thwaites writes. The plate plus the agent’s service fee will be about RMB 2,500.
With or without an agent, you will need the following documents, according to Thwaites: "Your motorcycle driving license; the "blue book," a wallet-sized folder that has the bikes picture in it, as well as the registration information (e.g., VIN, Engine number, address, etc). You will probably need to show this blue book to purchase gas at a gas station; the wallet-sized insurance card; a larger "green book" which is a listing of the vehicle’s ownership history; the original fapiao (needed for transfer of registration); and a document that certifies the bike meet the new C-3 emission standards.
When Riding: Carry with you your passport or at least a copy (foreigners in China are required by law to carry their passport with them at all times); the motorcycle license; the blue book; and the insurance card.
Suddenly, riding a bicycle or taking the subway doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Get legal.
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