Cyclists see open roads up ahead

Talks under way on allowing access to more streets, as bicycle group criticises Transport Department for lack of planning on the issue

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 5:42am

Cyclists might be able to ride on more Hong Kong roads if discussions between the government and a bicycle group bear fruit.

The Hong Kong Cycling Alliance is talking to transport officials about removing bans at some locations including bridges, underpasses and flyovers. There are no specific laws banning bicycles from these places apart from signs erected by the Transport Department. But laws do prohibit bicycles using tunnels and highways.

Alliance chairman Martin Turner said representatives of his group met officials in January and were told to provide locations for discussion.

It sent the first batch of 20 in March and expects more suggestions to come from its members.

Places suggested include an underpass at Tamar near the Legislative Council, bridges on Marsh Road and Fleming Road in Wan Chai, and Salisbury Road and Canton Road in Kowloon.

Turner said he hoped the policy governing which roads were off limits to cyclists would be thoroughly reviewed. He described the bans as "bureaucratic inertia", under which officials just did what their predecessors did to avoid trouble.

"Their logic doesn't go very far," he said. "They think cycling is only for leisure, not transportation. That's utterly not true."

Their logic doesn't go very far. They think cycling is only for leisure, not transportation. That's utterly not true

The department said it recognised cyclists' right to ride on roads and would review existing bans to cope with prevailing conditions.

But it said the potential risk to cyclists at flyovers, underpasses and ramps was higher because of the relatively fast and heavy motorised traffic. It added that cyclists' balance and control could be easily affected by cross-winds and wind-drag generated by larger vehicles and high-speed traffic.

"The prohibitions … are not set up lightly, and are mainly for enhancing the safety of cyclists and other road users," it said.

Turner said he did not find the roads currently closed to cyclists more dangerous than other sections. The speed limits were the same as those on the connecting roads, and the banned sections were in fact wider, he said.

The bans made it difficult for cyclists to get around the city, Turner said. As an example, he said it was difficult to reach the north part of Wan Chai.

"Arbitrarily that whole section of Hong Kong is cut off to anybody riding a bike. Why? Because there's no planning."

He said it was a step forward for the government to ask for locations where cyclists wanted to see the bans lifted, and hoped the review could be extended to roads managed by other departments, such as the ones in country parks that are managed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Transport panel lawmaker Wu Chi-wai also criticised the lack of planning. "They do not have a set of standards. They just forbid bicycles to enter some roads randomly," he said.