Hong Kong should embrace cycling and lift ban
- Progress on opening 16 bridges and underpasses to cyclists is as slow as a car stuck in rush-hour traffic, and the government also needs to speed up at other sites
A decision to lift a ban on cyclists using 16 bridges and underpasses in Hong Kong marked a small but welcome step towards making the city’s roads more accessible to bicycles. But it will not be until the second half of this year that the first location is opened up. By that time, at least 18 months will have passed since a government-commissioned consultant recommended lifting the ban. Progress is as slow as a car stuck in rush-hour traffic. The study, commissioned in 2013, involved a review of 105 zones where cycling is prohibited. There are 340 such zones in Hong Kong, so the recommendation to lift the ban at 16 sites is very modest. The first site to be opened up is a flyover in Kwun Tong, and the work needed should have taken no more than two months, but it has not even started. The government is dragging its feet, taking more than a year to consult district councils. Kwun Tong District Council was consulted last March and did not object. There is a need to push ahead and get the bans lifted.
The slow progress is a reflection of the government’s long-standing attitude towards cycling in urban areas, which it discourages. Riding a bike is generally viewed by officials as a recreational activity, rather than as a healthy and environmentally friendly form of transport. The ban on using bridges and flyovers makes cycling impractical on those routes. This deters people from using bikes to travel in the city.
While safety must be a priority, concerns about accidents involving cyclists have been overcome in many other cities, where using a bike is encouraged. Further steps should be taken to make Hong Kong more accessible to cyclists. Where possible, cycling lanes should be established, and motorists encouraged to be more aware of cyclists and to take greater care when around them. Cyclists, too, have a responsibility to ensure they observe the rules of the road.
When cars were first introduced to Hong Kong early in the last century, an official told the Legislative Council the city was “unsuited for motor traffic”. To say the same about bicycles in urban areas today is equally absurd. The city should embrace cycling as a form of transport and swiftly lift the ban on using bridges and flyovers.