Cyclist fights for road rights in court

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2011, 12:00am


A Hong Kong cyclist is preparing to argue in court that cyclists are sometimes justified to bicycle in the middle of a lane of traffic.

Martin Turner, chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, pleaded not guilty in Eastern Court yesterday to a charge of careless cycling. He was intercepted by an officer for allegedly cycling at the centre of a lane on Java Road in North Point on June 12.

The case was adjourned to December 21 by Deputy Special Magistrate Stephen Yeung Shu-bun, as the court needed time to handle other cases first. Expert witnesses and a police officer will testify in the case.

Speaking outside court, Turner said: 'Riding at the centre of the lane is often the right thing to do as the primary position. It is right because other traffic behind you can see you.

'There is no misunderstanding that perhaps you are giving them a message that they can pass you within the lane, which would be extremely dangerous in a tight space,' he said.

The Road Traffic Ordinance gives a general definition of a careless cyclist as one who rides 'without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road', but fails to define 'reasonable'. Conviction can carry a fine of HK$500.

However, chapter four of the Transport Department's non-legal binding Road Users' Code says cyclists should ride near the kerb, or roadside, but no closer than about 0.5 metres. The code - last updated in May 2000 and currently under review - is available on the department's website.

But Turner points to a study commissioned and published by the department in 2004, which recommends encouraging cyclists to 'adopt an assertive riding position in the carriageway and to ride well clear of the kerb'. The department's Road Users' Code does not reflect that study result.

Turner said that in countries including the United States, Britain and Australia, cyclists were advised to 'take the lane' when it was too narrow for a vehicle to safely overtake them. He said Hong Kong's code was outdated and urged the government to review it. The Transport Department would not comment on a current legal proceeding.