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Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

Critics in Hong Kong slam slow progress of work to allow cyclists to use Kwun Tong flyover with road sign still in place one year after plan touted

  • Hong Kong Cycling Alliance says time taken to abolish ‘bicycle prohibition zone’ is outrageous
  • Relaxing restrictions on Choi Ha Road flyover is part of scheme to lift cycling ban on 16 bridges and underpasses
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2019, 9:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2019, 10:27am

Preparatory works for opening a flyover in Kwun Tong to cyclists, seen as the first step in the lifting of a biking ban on bridges and underpasses in the city, will only be completed in the second half of 2019 – more than 1½ years after a government-commissioned consultant recommended the move.

The Hong Kong Cycling Alliance said the time taken to abolish the “bicycle prohibition zone” on the flyover was outrageous.

“It is a microcosm of the lack of responsible management by the Transport Department,” alliance chairman Martin Turner said.

Relaxing the restrictions on the Choi Ha Road flyover is part of a department scheme to lift the cycling ban on 16 bridges and underpasses across the city.

The department did not give an exact timetable for removing the ban on the other 15 sections of road but said a consultation with relevant district councils on the issue would be completed in the first quarter of this year.

There are 340 bicycle prohibition zones across the city. In 2013, the department commissioned a consultant to review 105 zones. The study, completed at the end of 2017, proposed lifting the ban at 16 spots in eight districts based on road gradient, traffic speed and vehicle volume.

Cycling ban at 16 spots across Hong Kong set to be lifted in months

The Kennedy Road flyover near St Joseph’s Church in Central, Shek O Headland Road and Shek O Village Road on the south side of Hong Kong Island are among the places where the rules are to be relaxed.

The department said in September work would go ahead to lift the ban on Choi Ha Road. This included the removal of traffic signs, new road markings and the modification of parapets.

Transport officials consulted Kwun Tong District Council in March last year on the proposal and councillors had no objections.

But in a recent reply to the Post’s inquiries, a department spokesman revealed the project would need another six months to complete.

“The department has finalised the scope of the enabling works for lifting the bicycle prohibition zone on Choi Ha Road with the relevant works department,” the spokesman said.

“The enabling works are scheduled for completion in the second half of 2019 tentatively.”

An on-site inspection by the Post near the flyover last Friday found the preparatory works had yet to start.

Lawmaker and keen cyclist Wu Chi-wai, who represents Kowloon East which includes Kwun Tong, said progress of the enabling works on the flyover was unreasonably slow.

“It’s a sign the government is not so keen on lifting cycling restrictions in the city,” said Wu, who has been pushing for a bicycle-friendly policy since he was elected as a lawmaker in 2012.

He said the flyover was an ideal place to lift the ban because it was relatively wide and there were two-foot-wide shoulders, emergency stopping lanes by the verge, on both sides of the road.

Kwun Tong district councillor Tam Siu-cheuk agreed the department was acting too slowly with regard to work on the flyover.

“It shouldn’t take more than two months to complete enabling works such as removal of the ‘No cycling’ road sign,” Tam said.

He added that the department should take measures to ensure the safety of cyclists using the flyover after the ban was lifted.

Why plan to have Hong Kong cyclists riding on flyovers warrants a rethink

Noting the concerns of some district councillors about road safety, Wu suggested a licensing system for cyclists to ensure they were skilled enough to ride on the roads.

Turner said while he was frustrated with the snail’s pace of removing the “No cycling” sign on the flyover, members of the public should be more concerned about the broader question.

“Those signs were put up without scientific justification or public consultation. They shouldn’t have been installed in the first place,” he said.