New direction needed on cycling

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am


The recent calls for a more cycling-friendly transport policy have been rejected by the government with the same worn out excuses. Once again, officials say Hong Kong roads are too dangerous to pedal along. The extensive public transport network, they argue, has made cycling a recreational activity rather than an alternative mode of transport. The reluctance to promote cycling is further reinforced by the sad news that three cyclists have been killed over the past two weeks. Inevitably, that has made efforts pushing for a change even more difficult.

Our advisers on the Harbourfront Commission may be sharing the same concerns when vetting a proposed cycling track along Hong Kong Island. They question if it is right to mix bicycles with pedestrians along the shore. But the Cycling Alliance argues that its proposal for a 16-kilometre route, by linking some existing routes through road improvements, remains feasible. It would breathe life into the harbourfront and make it more enjoyable for people.

Given the fact that the city's roads were not built with cycling in mind, it is not surprising that the project appears to pose more logistical difficulties than benefits. With recreational cycling mainly confined to the northeastern New Territories, it makes sense to keep exploring the proposal, for recreational and tourism purposes.

The truth is that bicycles are a form of transport for many, especially for residents in the New Territories. But a misguided transport policy that fails to recognise the value of cycling as a mode of transport has led to fewer people making use of this healthy and environmentally friendly means of getting around. A change of mindset is needed.

The recent tragedies involving cyclists have raised fresh safety concerns. There had already been eight fatal cases in the first six months of this year. But this is no reason to discourage people from cycling. Instead, the accidents underline the need for better policies, infrastructure and education of road users.