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designing hong kong
Designed to kill

At the recent cycling forum ‘Hong Kong on the Bicycle’ the Government was urged to review its policy directive that ‘cycling is for leisure, recreational and tourism purposes only’ and to recognize cycling as a mode of transport.

Cycling accidents in Hong Kong, 2000-2004.

For an increasing number of residents, especially in towns such as Tung Chung, Yuen Long, Sheung Shui, Taipo, Shatin, and Tseung Kwan O, as well as the new urban areas of Kowloon, cycling is part of the daily mix of transport. The failure to recognize this is resulting in fatal accidents and severe injuries.

Failure to deliver cycling routes in Tseung Kwan O

When plans were drawn up for Tseung Kwan O in 1982, a comprehensive cycling network was promised. More than 25 years later and with the population grown from a few thousand to over 300,000, cycling routes are still incomplete. Although the Outline Zoning Plan states that cycle tracks are always permitted, the Transport Department failed to complete the network of cycling routes (see visual below).

Incomplete cycling routes in Tseung Kwan O.

Tseung Kwan is a typical new urban area. It is flat and the retail, transport, residential and recreational nodes are far apart. An increasing number of residents recognize the bicycle as a useful mode of transport. Where the cycling tracks end, cyclists – and many are children – find themselves in dangerous situations as there are no provisions to guide cyclists and no indications for motorists that they are sharing the road with cyclists.

Illegal parking problems demonstrate the popularity of cycling.

Despite ongoing reports of accidents and illegal parking the Transport Department only first acknowledged that ‘cycling was also used by TKO residents as a mode of transport for short distance commuting’ during a Town Planning Board meeting in November 2008. It is unclear what will happen next. With the ongoing development of TKO the Transport Department suggests that it has no choice. It claims that vehicular traffic has increased to the point that the available road space is now limited making it difficult to add provisions for cycling (until the next kid dies).

Kai Tak – Designed to kill

Cycling will be equally popular in Kai Tak. The flat terrain makes cycling easy and not only are the residential, retail and transport nodes far apart, there are many attractive destinations: The cruise terminal, the metro park, the runway park, the sports facilities, and a 6.6km cycle track along the waterfront.

In Kai Tak the average distance between a home and the cycle track is 1.5km. The Transport Department has the unrealistic expectation that kids will push their bike.

There is, however, no provision for cycling within the reserve for public roads and pavements. Government boldly claims ‘competing demands for road space from different transport modes’ despite the fact that nothing has been built in Kai Tak!

When asked how the 100,000 future residents of Kai Tak will go to the cycle track, which is on average 1.5km away from their home, the Transport Department responded with an unrealistic expectation that ‘Kai Tak residents may consider to bring/push their bicycles to the cycle track through the open space or pedestrian footways.’

Recognize cycling as a mode of transport

Concluding the first conference on cycling in Hong Kong, the ‘Hong Kong on the Bicycle Forum’ held 23 May 2009 at the Fringe Club, participants agreed that:

Facilitating cycling will improve the quality of the environment, reduce air pollution and Hong Kong’s carbon footprint, improve the health and safety of all citizens, improve transport efficiency and alleviate traffic congestion, reduce the demand on our limited land resources, and improve Hong Kong’s opportunities in all cycling sports.

Cycling is an important part of the transport mix for an increasing number of people in Hong Kong.

A call for action by Government

By a show of hands, the forum participants (excluding Government officials) agreed to call on the Government to act as follows:

1. Plan and facilitate cycling as a mode of regular transport, a leisure activity and a participation sport;

2. Provide routes and facilities which are coherent, direct, safe, comfortable, attractive and environmentally sustainable;

3. Initially, prioritize the New Territories, islands and new urban zones such as Kai Tak as cycling districts which can be extended to the entire Territory;

4. Cultivate the sharing of space by motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and hikers;

5. Create a Cycling Advisory Board with representatives from community, cycling concern, sports and professional bodies;

6. Require public transport companies to review/relax their current practices regarding carrying bikes on board so as to enhance making cycling an integral part of the whole transport system.

Simple signage warning drivers that they are sharing the road with bikes will improve safety.

The forum also discussed specific planning measures:

1. A renewed focus on implementing Hong Kong’s existing Planning Standards and Guidelines regarding cycling;

2. A process for continuous review and enhancement of the planning standards (HKPSG) and the transport planning and design standards (TPDM) regarding cycling;

3. To specify cycling provisions (which currently default to ‘always permit’) in Outline Zoning Plans to ensure these are realized.

Road markings indicating cycling lanes combined with lower speed limits will improve safety.

The forum welcomed the new cycling tracks planned for the New Territories while noting that:

1. Cycle tracks will be used for all types of cycling, including utilitarian, leisure and sport;

2. The tracks should always be integrated with road and public transportation networks, since it is impossible to connect all residences, transport nodes and cycling facilities with cycling tracks, and the expectation that people will push or carry their bicycle at all times off the tracks is unreasonable;

3. Conflicts between cycle track standards and site constraints including undesirable impact on the environment limits the development of cycle track networks;

4. Research shows that severe and fatal accidents involving cyclists occur off the tracks and primarily in collisions with (high speed) motorists; any omission to plan for cycling on roads will prevent the development of safe cycling in Hong Kong; additional advisory road signs will help educate drivers and cyclists and reduce accidents;

5. Sports cyclists require access to long sections of roads (at certain times/locations) for training and competition.

In calling for a Cycling Advisory Board, the forum noted that:

1. A Cyclist Advisory Board can review standards or agree to waivers of standards where deemed applicable to enable expansion of the cycle route network beyond the planned cycle tracks;

2. A Cyclist Advisory Board can assist with a renewed emphasis on learning and facilitating the safe sharing of space between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

The 'Hong Kong on the Bicycle' Forum was co-organized by The Fringe Club, The Conservancy Association, Designing Hong Kong Limited, Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, Hong Kong Mountain Bike Association, Hong Kong Cyclist Information Net and Interface for Cycling Expertise. The event was sponsored by the Consulate-General of the Netherlands.
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