• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 10:05am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Make way for cyclists on roads

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 4:19am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 10:08am

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.


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In Singapore, cycling features strongly in the Land Transport Master Plan, which will "incorporate more cycling and walking into our daily journeys to get healthier and reduce our carbon footprint," including "cycling longer distances". This translates into adding cycling path networks for all 26 of their new towns, and looking to provide "inter-town cycling routes to link various towns to the CBD to make it possible for cyclists to commute into the city centre.".
New cycle paths under the National Cycle Plan will be in place by next year.
All of this is because the Singapore government decided to get serious about cycling as transport.
Meanwhile, our own Transport Department doesn't seem to have a clue that cycling is already normal transport for a lot of Hong Kong people, and increasing. Time to wake up!
Official transport policy in HK is still so enamoured of private cars - which were an icon of the 20th century but have a declining role today. Streets are for movement of people, and feet and bicycles are the most efficient, healthy and sustainable choice for shorter movements and trains/trams for longer movements.
Many other cities with similar narrow roads and climate are providing for cycling as a significant transport option in urban areas, and encouraging the use of cycles for commuting. It is even happening over our border where cycling was briefly seen as an old and primitive behaviour to be removed - once again it is being encouraged and new facilities provided.
It is time for TD and the others involved to look again and support cycling as transport with facilities to make it safer.
Road use should be rationally priortized
according to realistic conditions
Are bicycles "the most efficient, healthy and sustainable choice"
in HK Island during rush hours?


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