Bike sharing would be great for Hong Kong commuters travelling short distances
There has been a lot of discussion of late in Hong Kong about the growing popularity of bike-sharing and the problem of bikes parked or left illegally in public places.
Officials have responded by saying they will tighten regulations for bike-sharing services. But the problem of illegal bike parking has been with us for a long time, especially in the New Territories.
The problem has become worse with more bike-sharing firms starting up, and is now affecting urban areas. Last week, I saw that one bicycle owned by the bike-share operator gobee. bike had been left leaning on a lamp post at Lam Tin.
Insufficient designated areas lead to this illegal parking. But the root of the problem seems to be the lack of civic-mindedness among bike users. Many bikes used by residents of village houses in the New Territories are often chained to the railings near MTR stations such as Tai Po, Sha Tin and Ma On Shan. Some people leave their bikes there instead of storing them at home, on the pretext that there is not enough space in their flat.
Measures such as adding more parking areas and imposing tougher penalties for illegal parking can alleviate the problem. However, educating bike users about civic behaviour is also essential. They should not leave bikes wherever they like.
The government has a proactive role to play by supporting bike-riding, particularly encouraging it among commuters travelling short distances.
In this way, we can reduce carbon emissions and also utilise a convenient way to make short trips. Instead of taking the minibus to do their shopping or run errands, physically fit people should be encouraged to use a bicycle. There are many examples of councils in cities around the world being the operators or organisers of bike-sharing schemes.
This is quite different from encouraging cycling as a sport or pastime. Therefore, bike-sharing should not be seen as being in competition with the established bike rental shops, which provide rental for a whole day or several hours, to those who wish to enjoy cycling on their days off.
The government can learn from cities like London, Paris, Taipei and Helsinki, with a view to encouraging bike-riding to reduce air pollution. It could even look into collaborating with NGOs to develop bike-sharing schemes.
Tony Leung, Kwai Chung