To the sound of hundreds of bicycle bells trilling in Kennedy Town, more than a thousand cyclists yesterday braved crowded roads to drive home their message: the need for a harbourfront cycleway along the waterfront from Kennedy Town to Heng Fa Chuen.
The two-wheeled warriors cycled from Kennedy Town to Sai Wan Ho, often forced to ride along roads a considerable way from the waterfront itself.
"I was born in Holland, so I was born with a bicycle - the only way to get around," Pok Fu Lam district councillor Paul Zimmerman, who took part in the ride, told the cyclists gathered at the start. "I was four years old when I started riding a bicycle."
He said the government was terrified of potential accidents, but also gave the example of the recent opening of the Shenzhen promenade to cyclists and pedestrians. "There is only one condition, a speed limit of 15 km/h. If that's what it takes, let's convince [the] government it is safe."
Martin Turner, chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance and one of the organisers of yesterday's event, welcomed the non-regular cyclists who had hired bicycles to take part. "Cyclists should be able to move freely along the harbourfront. Families could come to the harbour, hire a bike from a rental place and ride," he said.
Television commercial producer Jackie Yau, 45, brought her family along. "It's great for exercise, but even in country parks, everywhere you can't ride," she said, hoping the government could change this. "The future is with our children, which is why I've brought my son along."
Australian Ellie Holloway, 11, had come with her father from Sham Tseng. "It would be nice to have a harbourfront bike path," she said, "because there aren't many paths around."
The cyclists unfurled a banner near Central opposing the military pier that is expected to limit public access to the harbourfront.
Zimmerman, Turner and Democratic Party vice-chairman and lawmaker Sin Chung-kai also handed in a petition signed by the cyclists to the Development Bureau in North Point demanding the government build a cycleway.
Democratic Party legislator Wu Chi-wai stressed the government shouldn't see the issue in terms of just leisure cycling but provide markings on the side of roads for serious commuters.
Katty Law Ngar-ning, convenor of the Central Harbourfront Concern Group who was participating in the event for a second straight year, warned that the government had broken its promise of returning the harbour to the public by rezoning an area for the military pier, resulting in the longest hearing by the Town Planning Board in its history in November last year.
Harbourfront Commission chairman Nicholas Brooke said the body was supportive of a track for both cyclists and pedestrians along the harbourfront. But responsibility for the hoped-for cycleway would fall across several government departments, he said, adding that he hoped a planned harbour authority would come into being as a single delivery agency.