Cyclothon has the city on the right track
The annual cyclothon is exactly what Hong Kong needs to push its international image while building a better and stronger community. While the government discourages cycling in urban areas, closing some roads to traffic for a day gives cyclists and onlookers the sights and excitement that few other cities can match
Hong Kong has hit on a winning formula with its annual cyclothon. The event has appeal for locals and tourists alike, attracts international athletes, brings families together and promotes fitness. Its success this year was amply gauged by the festive atmosphere created by 4,900 competitors and about 60,000 spectators. It is exactly what our city needs to push its international image while building a better and stronger community.
The narrow, congested, streets of Hong Kong would not seem bicycle friendly. The government discourages cycling in urban areas, saying conditions are unsafe. But close down some of those same roads in Kowloon and the New Territories to traffic for a day, and cyclists and onlookers are given sights and excitement few other cities can match. With events for everyone, from children to the best riders, Hong Kong has an attraction with worldwide appeal.
The inclusion this year of the Union Cycliste Internationale class 1.1 road race, a top event on the global cycling calendar, added to the cyclothon’s standing. It drew 100 of the world’s elite riders, elevating the festival alongside the annual Hong Kong marathon as one of our city’s top sporting draws. Such events draw international media attention, but also promote sports and fitness. That, in turn, can lead to changed community attitudes and expectations.
Cycling is popular as a healthy and environmentally friendly form of transport in an increasing number of cities. Authorities here prefer to see it as recreational, contending urban road conditions do not allow for the bicycle lanes, parking facilities and ride-sharing operations found elsewhere. There is more room to manoeuvre in the New Territories, where some commute to work and school on bicycles and enjoy weekend rides on dedicated cycleways. But our city has a vocal cycling community that says there should be fewer cars and more bicycles on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon.
The government, Tourism Board and businesses have joined forces to make the cyclothon a success. Teething problems have been resolved and the festival has great potential for expansion. There is bound to be a positive knock-on effect for cycling in our city.