Bicycle transport is a hard sell in Hong Kong, not least because of the government's negative thinking on its role as a people mover and reluctance to make provision for it beyond recreational cycleways in the New Territories. It is therefore good news for supporters that it might enjoy a higher profile as the West Kowloon Cultural District becomes better known.
That, admittedly, is some way off. But the district authority's long-term vision is of thousands of visitors getting about the extensive site on bicycle or on foot. Meanwhile it has fleshed out its vision with the supply of 50 bicycles for hire that visitors to the site can ride along its 1.8-kilometre harbourfront promenade. From 2pm on weekdays and 11am on weekends, adults and children can rent one of the bicycles at two stations on the cycling path. The authority is working with the BiciLine Eco-Tourism Social Enterprise, under the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, which envisages adding another station and increasing the number of bicycles to 80 by the summer.
The authority says bicycle lanes can be adjusted in the future as the site is developed. It is to be commended for adopting an environmentally friendly and healthy method of moving about the district. This may conform with the official view of cycling as merely a form of recreation. Hopefully, however, it will prompt people to reflect on the potential of the bicycle for travelling to work or school or running errands.
The Transport Department says roads are too busy, narrow and polluted, space too limited for parking and the summer weather too uncomfortable for bikes. Other cities where these factors apply to one degree or another do not have a problem. A global study by an international consultancy has found that Hong Kong's public transport is the most advanced urban mobility system in the world. Interestingly, however, it found fault with the scarcity of bicycle paths and facilities, citing health and air pollution issues. Hopefully, the cultural district will one day be seen as instrumental in winning greater acceptance of the bicycle as a transportation mode.