Hong Kong government must change its policy to embrace cycling culture

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 September, 2015, 1:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 September, 2015, 1:03am

Amid a slowdown in visitor numbers, the authorities are banking on cycling fever to boost the ailing tourism industry.

Thousands of local and foreign bikers will pedal around some of Hong Kong's landmarks in the city's first cyclothon next month.

The initiative not only has the potential of becoming another signature event like the annual marathon run, it may also help instil a wider cycling culture and nurture a more cyclist-friendly environment and policy.

Whether the new event can attract overseas visitors remains to be seen. But the Tourism Board is right in saying that cycling fever has swept the city.

Increasingly, weekend and night-time cycling have become a popular leisure activity among youngsters and families.

The positive response to the city's first cyclothon - more than 3,000 have registered to take part - underlines the growing importance of cycling among the population.

Unfortunately, the trend is not matched by institutional changes. Our roads are designed for vehicular traffic. People riding bikes are never respected as equals by those sitting behind steering wheels.

This is exacerbated by a government that does not regard cycling as a form of transport.

But in reality, cycling is not uncommon in the New Territories, with people using it as a way of commuting as well as recreation.

This has resulted in frequent accidents, which number around 2,500 to 2,700 each year.

The lack of a sound policy and infrastructure sits oddly with cycling's growing popularity.

Our government is aware of the trend, but is only willing to step up road safety campaigns rather than changing its outdated transport policy.

The merits of cycling have long been recognised by some cities overseas. Not only is it an eco-friendly mode of transport, it also adds to the city's character, as in the case of Amsterdam.

In fact, cycling has such a growing appeal that many cities have introduced bike-sharing schemes for locals and tourists alike.

With the right policy and approach, the government can improve Hong Kong's transport infrastructure and help people stay healthy, too.