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Road Rage

HOng Kong on a bike? “Not yet” says Rob Parks

The cycling conference “ Hong Kong on a bike” held on 23rd May, highlighted the decline in the governments attitude towards sharing the roads with cyclists, Paul Zimmerman of Designing Hong Kong, Dr Hung Wing-Tat from the Conservancy, government officials Mr Yip hung Wai from the Civil Engineering Department (CEDD), the new cycling representative Mr Leung Ting Hong of the Transport department (TD), along with members of the cycling community where there to put forward their cases for improvement, or should that be lack of improvement into making Hong Kong a more bike friendly place.

The CEDD and TD representatives stated from the onset that cycling is purely a leisure activity and not a mode of transport or a sporting activity. However, to facilitate the growing biking community, and with safety in mind a new ambitious Cycle track has been proposed that would create a continuous cycle track throughout the New Territories.

Along the cycle paths, parking areas, practice areas and eating areas are to be built at an estimated cost of HK$585M

 This I find preposterous. For those who have ridden on the obstacle strewn, stop – start, dismount - remount cycle paths currently in existence in HK, they will know these are dangerous places to ride!?

Statistics presented by the TD showed that out of the 230,000 accidents that occurred in 2008, thirty seven percent  of accidents happened on designated cycle paths.

" This I find preposterous. For those who have ridden on the obstacle strewn, stop – start, dismount - remount cycle paths currently in existence in HK, they will know these are dangerous places to ride" 

Even more alarming is the number of accidents that occur simply getting to the cycle paths, a staggering eight percent in 2008. Admittedly most of these accidents involve novice riders and not experienced cyclists. Brandon Kirk representing the HKMBA drove this point home when he spoke of the difficulties that mountain bikers face just to get to the trailhead and start actually mountain biking, offroad.

When questioned in a previous interview about the dangers and unsuitability of existing and planned cycle paths for serious riders, who want to ride long distances or fast without having to stop every 50m, Mr. Leung from the TD simply said, “You shouldn’t be overtaking.” This lack of knowledge of our needs is one of the fundamental problems that we have to face

If a cycle path network is not the answer for serious riders and commuters, what is, shared access to roads? As cyclists we are just as interested in good quality roads, wide enough for safe use by all its legal users, and where necessary, designated bike lanes incorporated onto the road itself, roads we can share with other users safely.

But to segregate us into cycle-paths as described above, and keep the roads for vehicles only, that's rather backwards thinking for our self titled “Asia's World City."

 Guest speaker from Holland, Mr Jan van Der Grift from the Interface for Cycling expertise, gave a lengthy speech about the merits of shared roads usage giving numerous examples of cities in Holland that have adopted such principles and how their accident rates have dropped significantly. But I fear that the government’s ideology is still lagging behind from that of 2005.

In a report from December of that year the following was written... "The reason for the vulnerability, (when cyclists mix with road traffic in Hong Kong), can be put down to driver attitudes, vehicle speeds, traffic volumes and lack of cyclist training."

"Traffic," in the language used above, to describe the vulnerability of the bicyclist (or pedestrian), takes on the characteristics of a force of nature. It's as though a stream of motor vehicles was a herd of bison or a flash flood. There's no point in trying to control a wild herd or a flood, right?

 "Cars, buses and trucks are not an out of control flash flood or stampeding herd of cattle. They are vehicles driven by human beings" 

Cars, buses and trucks are not an out of control flash flood or stampeding herd of cattle. They are vehicles driven by human beings with the ability to reason and do the right or wrong thing, and it is only through education, understanding, patience and mutual respect that safe sharing of roads (and trails?) can be achieved.

The driver attitude problem exists the world over, but to have actually allowed cars to become all powerful and used as weapons to intimidate us, that's something that can only be changed by standing up for ourselves and saying we need to be allowed to share safer roads and trails safely.

 So, unless we can convince the government departments, that we should be allowed to share the roads on and trails off safely, the dumbing down and further restrictions imposed upon us as cyclists will be passed and, if you did nothing to voice your opinion, then that apathy will be partly to blame.