Wheels of justice turn for cycling activist
A high-profile cycling activist who was knocked off his bike in Central by a car driven by a former senior policeman, has been cleared of careless riding. The verdict drew mixed reactions from the legal and cycling communities.
The car of Spencer Foo Tsun-kong, a former senior assistant police commissioner, struck the bicycle of Martin Turner, chairman of the Cycling Alliance, on August 31 last year. The incident occurred after Turner, 50, overtook Foo's car and crossed into his lane on Queensway, Central.
Foo told the court Turner swerved in front of him, but Turner claimed Foo saw him and made eye contact as he overtook the car when a traffic light turned green.
On Monday, Special Magistrate Lau Suk-han, sitting in Kwun Tong Court, found Turner not guilty of careless cycling. Lau chose not to award costs, so Turner will foot a legal bill of about HK$30,000 over a charge for which the maximum fine is HK$500. He admitted a separate charge of not having a bicycle bell, for which he was fined HK$1,000.
Turner said his acquittal was a victory for cyclists in Hong Kong. 'It's one step in saying that yes, cyclists are normal road users too,' he said. 'The laws of Hong Kong are very clear and it's just about how it's enforced.'
Turner, who organises an annual ride commemorating cyclists who have died on the city's roads, says he is considering making a formal case against Foo to the Complaints Against Police Office. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said it was taking no further action.
In December, the department dropped another careless cycling case against Turner two days before the trial was due to start and gave no reason for its decision. That charge related to riding in the middle of a lane in Java Road, in North Point, last June and was based on a non-binding Road Users Code, which advises cyclists to keep to the kerb.
Mountain Bike Association acting chairman Tom McGuinness felt the case against Turner, a vocal advocate of better cycling policies, was malicious. 'I have never heard of a cyclist being struck from behind and then being made the victim once again in court,' McGuinness said. 'Charges are rarely brought against cyclists who are the sole victims. You might expect this in places like Pakistan or Iran but not in a civil society like Hong Kong.'
However, former Law Society president Junius Ho Kwan-yiu said a fair trial had taken place despite fears the involvement of a former senior policeman may have influenced matters.
Ho, a mountain biker, said fines for careless cycling and not having a bike bell were 'not properly scaled' and the result of the Turner case warranted further study, as it showed the need for mutual respect on the road.
Last year, there were 218 careless cycling cases and 12 cases of reckless cycling. No figures were kept for cases of cycling without a bell.