The outcome of a road accident involving a bicycle is inevitable: a cyclist stands no chance against vehicles that are heavier and more powerful. Colin Robertson's years of cycling experience therefore meant little when he and a van collided on a Tung Chung street on Thursday night. His death is a sad loss to his family and a blow to Hong Kong's cycling community, of which he was a valued and respected member. It has to also be a wake-up call to drivers and the government.
Cycling is increasingly popular in Hong Kong as an alternative form of transport and part of a healthy lifestyle. Apart from being environmentally friendly and good for fitness, bicycles are an inexpensive and convenient way to commute to work and school or run errands. This is especially so in the new Territories; Robertson had moved to Tung Chung for its cycling opportunities. Yet while cities elsewhere are embracing bicycles for their benefits, authorities here continue to largely think of them in terms of sport or recreation, the basis for the networks of cycling paths around Sha Tin and Tai Po.
The lack of appreciation of the changing nature of cycling is putting riders at risk. Roads should belong to all vehicle users, but Transport Department advice to cyclists is that they should ride on the left-hand side within 50cm of the kerb - a dangerous place to be in busy traffic should an obstacle be encountered or they fall in an accident. Drivers are also not adequately educated and trained about sharing roads with cyclists. Little wonder that traffic accident statistics show an alarming increase in the number of bicycle rider casualties. Bicycles are now involved in 11 per cent of road accidents.
Authorities have long discouraged commuter cycling, citing narrow roads, congested traffic and unfavourable weather. Yet trends are such that they need to adopt a more positive mindset. Road rules need to reflect this reality. Where possible, new and existing roads should include bicycle lanes. Most importantly, though, car, bus and truck drivers have to be more aware of cyclists and take greater care when around them.