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  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 12:25am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 2:55am

Bicycles part of the transport solution

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Hong Kong boasts some of the world's most efficient and cleanest public transport systems. Given how small our city is compared to many major world cities, there is rarely a real need to own a car.

Yet our private car fleet passed the 500,000 mark in March. If left to grow unchecked, it will hit 540,000 by 2017. This is despite an increase in the tax imposed on new imported cars in 2011.

For once, this has united environmentalists and transport officials. Our air is bad enough without new cars hitting the road every day and worsening it.

Meanwhile, the Transport Department frets about the rate of car ownership outpacing the availability of roads. If this continues, congestion will only become even more severe as well as more frequent.

According to the department, car ownership per 1,000 people rose by 25 per cent to 63.4 between 2002 and 2012. Some owners have two or more cars registered in their names. However, the length of road per 1,000 only increased by 1.7 per cent.

Why the big jump in car ownership despite record petrol prices and high taxes?

One explanation may be rising property prices. Those who own flats are far more likely to own cars too. The property bubble has made many people rich. Even those who have not sold their flats feel richer than before when they look at property adverts and find out how much their flats are now worth.

Naturally they feel they have spare cash to buy the finer things in life. Furthermore in Hong Kong, car ownership is a status symbol. If you think are you a high-net-worth individual, you need the right car model to match your social status. This trend needs to be reversed. Hopefully, the deflating property bubble will have an impact on car sales.

But the government and the public need to commit to a multi-ponged approach. Raising already high taxes on cars is one way. Introducing electronic road pricing is another, such as using it on the Central-Wan Chai bypass to be opened in 2017. We need to promote not only the use of public transport, but also cycling. Officials still think cycling is a sport, but many major cities around the world have seriously incorporated it as part of their urban and transport planning. Our roads need to be made safe for cyclists.

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caractacus
The Government, especially Transport, Highways Departments and the District Offices view bicycles as a nuisance and are totally blind to the benefits of exercise, lower pollution and reduced road congestion that cycling brings. The current pig headed official attitude is that road congestion is solved by building more and bigger roads while empirical observations in more far sighted city administrations around the world has shown the opposite is true, i.e. that more and bigger roads produces ever more congestion. There are plenty of flat areas suitable for bicycles and cycle tracks would solve the safety problem. In the New Territories very few bicycle parking spaces are provided and Lands Dept. uses an inappropriate law intended to stop squatters occupying Government land to confiscate hundreds of bicycles belonging to people who simply park their bikes while shopping and then sells them to scrap merchants. Highways Dept, in collusion with developers and indigenous villager special interests, is pressing ahead with an unpopular dual carriageway into Sai Kung (claiming to have having carried out a public consultation exercise which in fact never happened and was really cosmetic and a fraud), yet has refused to listen to requests to build any cycle tracks.
Something is very wrong here.
johnyuan
Hong Kong undeniably has an efficient transportation system. Unfortunately they are not cleanest; not even the electric operated MTR. The Mid-Level escalators like MTR, a very efficient transportation means but too operates on air polluting electrical generators. Bicycle is clean, but as a means of transportation would be taken up too much road area. Only about 10 bicycles with 10 cyclists to be equivalent of a bus load of 50 to 60 people occupying the same road area. And cars get even worst – 4 to 60 people for cars without passengers. Speed is a wash as everyone is moving at the same speed in a congested traffic. Anyway, car as a status symbol mostly because there is something lacking in owners. It is explained in sociology that blacks in the 60s liked driving Cadillac– an expansive luxury American car so to compensate the lack of social status and opportunity to spent good money on housing. The racial discrimination limited where they could find better housing. If Hong Kong’s rise in car ownership is due to the increased property value what we see is a double punishment on our diminishing land area by these land consuming acts – owning properties and cars.
pslhk
Crowded and hilly HK isn’t suitable for bicycles
that are makers of feudal masters
each a pedal-powered prince leading its pack of motor followers
in snail processions uphill and Brownian movements at gridlock junctions
-
Cycling is wonderful sport and transport for suitable rural areas
Urban traffic constrained by crowded systemic pathways
can’t be resorted efficiently by commingling emergent behaviors
of motors and cyclers, two different breeds of actors
the resultant chaos and perils will be worse than
unleashing mountain bikers on hiker trails
impala
For once, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Lo.

But we have a very very long way to go when it comes to making Hong Kong a bicycle-friendly city. Even the bicycle roads we do have (mainly in the Shatin - Fan Ling - Ma On Shan triangle) are often neglected in their upkeep and, worse, feature 'Cyclists Dismount' signs every 100m because there is a pedestrian crossing or some other 'dangerous' situation.
John Adams
Well said,Mr Lo.
It takes a brave person to ride a bike in HK these days ( and an even braver person to park his bike outside knowing that it is likely to be confiscated by the local authorities, as was the case recently reported in Sai Kung)
But I have a question for the police : why are bike riders allowed to jump traffic lights , cycle up one-way streets the wrong way, cycle at night with no lights and break almost every other traffic law in the Highway Code ?

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