• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 1:12pm
SportHong Kong

Restrictions on road use are killing our sport, says Hong Kong Cycling Association

Local body concerned by strict government measures after arrest of young star Esther Fung

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 10:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 10:13am

The Hong Kong Cycling Association is on a collision course with authorities in the wake of tightened measures on cyclists' road use that threaten their youth training programmes.

While senior Hong Kong team members are based in China for training, the youth team, comprising mostly students, have to train in Hong Kong.

Their efforts have been seriously hampered by the government's cycling rules - with one up-and-coming star, Esther Fung Yuk-ki, arrested for not using a designated cycle path during a practice session along Ting Kok Road in Tai Po last year.

How can we conduct speed training on a cycle track when there are a lot of people there riding for leisure?
HKCA Chairman Leung Hung-tak

Fung, 17, who won gold and silver medals at the Hong Kong International Track Cup early this year, pleaded not guilty when the case was heard last month.

The case has since been adjourned to this summer as the young rider will need to represent Hong Kong at the Asian Junior Championships in Kazakhstan next month.

"We now always remind our young riders to try to use a cycle path during training if there is one nearby to avoid being prosecuted," said HKCA chairman Leung Hung-tak. "But we think it is unrealistic and detrimental to the long term development of the sport.

"Cycling paths are built for recreational purposes, for family members to enjoy the pleasure of cycling. How can we conduct speed training on a cycle track when there are a lot of people there riding for leisure?

"We will discuss the matter seriously at our council meeting this month before we ask the authorities concerned to sort it out. This is very important - if we can't groom our junior athletes, how can we develop the next Wong Kam-pos?"

The police have just completed a week-long, territory-wide campaign on safe cycling, during which they took stringent action against cycling offences.

According to Hong Kong road traffic laws, "Where a portion of a road is set aside for bicycles or tricycles no person shall ride a bicycle or a tricycle on any other portion of the road". Any person who without reasonable excuse contravenes the law commits an offence and is liable to a fine of HK$2,000.

Fung was charged under this rule even though she was led by a Hong Kong Sports Institute coach during the training session. Five triathletes were also charged by police when conducting training in Ting Kok Road last year.

That road section is a favourite training route as it leads to Bride's Pool Road, which has a lot of hills ideal for road training and competition. Other similarly suitable roads in Sha Tin suffer the same problem because there are many cycle paths nearby.

Former Hong Kong team member Ronald Yeung Ying-hon, now riding for professional team OCBC of Singapore, said that whenever he came back to Hong Kong for training, he had to act like a thief. "I must be careful before and during training to make sure there are no police around. It's just like doing something illegal," he said.

Even when training on cycle paths, riders can be prosecuted because the maximum speed is 50 kilometres per hour, easily broken by a quality rider. That leaves them liable to charges of reckless or careless cycling, the punishment for which is a fine of HK$500 and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment for three months.


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This article is now closed to comments

It might seem ironic to the general public that cycling paths would not be safe for all cyclists but it is true. Those of us who wish to train hard and compete prefer to ride in the road because (relatively speaking) it is safer for us and others.
RE Esther Fung and others who have been charged- they do have a "reasonable excuse" for contravening the law and that needs to be made clear. But to the real issue: Hong Kong does not let just anybody operate a vehicle on the road- one must first hold a proper license. Why not do the same for cyclists by licensing those who need to be riding a public road (where cycling is not expressly prohibited)? Yes, it would be a bureaucratic nuisance for all of us but it's better than the unfairly punitive status quo.
The cycling scene is exploding in Hong Kong, which is an unambiguously positive development. It is no coincidence that the most "livable" cities in the world are also the most "bike friendly". But the growing popularity of cycling is creating new challenges (such as overcrowded bike paths).
The emerging cycling culture is one the government should embrace. To this end, what a positive thing it would be if the government were to partner with various stakeholder groups to better manage, regulate and improve all aspects related to an activity that is so beneficial on so many levels.
P.S. Esther- Good luck next month in Kazakhstan. Many of us are proud of you and your accomplishments.
Good luck to Esther. I presume the police will also prosecute those who walk on bicycle paths? No, because that would be ridiculous. We should support athletes and all those who engage in outdoor activities. We are not rats, to live in apartments and office buildings all day. Govt needs to support sport and healthy activities.
The recreational bike paths are typically full of people that are just learning how to bike, or tend to go at leisurely paces. Sometimes they even stop in the middle of the cycle path to just chat. Which is fine, that's what they're there for.
People who are more experienced or are training will be going a lot faster. The road, especially if the cyclist is following all the road rules, is actually safer as there's less risk of a collision. Motorists, especially taxi or minibus drivers can be quite aggressive towards cyclists but most private cars are courteous. Hong Kong's laws really need to be looked at. Otherwise make bicycle lanes on the roads themselves, especially in the New Territories. There's enough space on the road.
PS - Cycle paths can be in pretty poor shape. The material they use to pave it can sometimes be crumbly, and it's uneven. Cheaper than road asphalt that's for sure. It's pretty dangerous to ride on if you're going any kind of decent speed.
What HK Government doing to Cyclists, or not doing for them are utterly wrong. I suspect the policy makers in the public services are either disconnected with the trend in the world today with respect to cycling as a form of transport as well as for leisure, or that they are too afraid to change the status quo and make wrong decisions.


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