Cyclists cry foul over mass seizures

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2011, 12:00am


Olivia Yong and her husband had a shock on July 8 when they left the MTR in Tai Wai to ride home on the bicycles they had parked outside the station that morning.

The cycles were gone - confiscated because, according to the government, they were parked illegally.

Yong said she thought her bike had been stolen until she saw a notification in the basket of another one saying that bicycles still there after July 7 would be confiscated.

'I called the Lands Department and they admitted that they took the action,' said Yong. She said she noticed a whole set of bikes had gone that night.

The department said it left notices on July 5 warning that any bicycles still parked in the area after July 7 would be confiscated and auctioned unless claimed within 24 hours.

Yong said she had called the department as soon as she could but was told she could not get her bicycle back. She was stunned by the speed of the confiscation.

'How can they take away our things without returning them? I didn't even see the notification. It was too fast,' the 29-year-old said.

The department's action has brought calls from green groups for the government to recognise that bicycles are environmentally friendly transport and to be more tolerant in providing more parking spaces.

A Facebook page launched by Yong after her bike was taken now has 186 supporters.

Cyclists have complained about the speed of the confiscation, saying cyclist had previously been given two weeks to a month to get confiscated bikes back. The department said the retrieval deadline had not changed.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, president of environmental group Green Sense, said the government was too strict in dealing with bicycles.

'There are so many illegally parked private cars too,' he said. 'Can't you just carry away the cars and auction them?'

Tam suggested the crackdown was intended to beautify the area around Festival City, a new private estate developed nearby by Cheung Kong (Holdings). The department did not respond to questions as to whether this was the case.

Green Sense quoted statistics from the Government Logistics Department showing 6,623 bikes were confiscated in the first half of this year, with 6,378 auctioned for a total of HK$152,450, or about HK$24 each.

'The thing is, the government bans people from parking without specifying where they can park, so the people have a dilemma,' said Ho Loy, who started the Waterfront Bike Ride for a Pollution-Free Hong Kong.

Ho said an abandoned bus station near Tai Wai station could hold at least 1,000 bikes, which would largely eliminate the current shortage of space, but the government had never opened it.

Philip Heung Fu-lap, from Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, said there was no reason for the government not to accept cycling in its transport system.

'Cycling is greener, healthier and cheaper, and avoids traffic jams,' he said. 'If it's not happening, it's only because the government has no vision for it.'