MTRC’s recent strict enforcement of baggage dimension rules, under which students with cellos and other larger musical instruments have been kicked off trains (SCMP, Ming Pao, Sun), and the resulting public backlash have made some people ask about the situation for passengers with bikes.
Most of us know that since 2011 (as well as until 2003), bikes have been accepted on all MTR services. Passengers with bikes have widely shown responsibility, such as by not trying to get on a really crowded train.
But this arrangement has never quite been the bold step forward for Hong Kong and the MTR that it should have been.
Here’s what Hong Kong Cycling Alliance submitted to MTRC’s review:
Bicycle Carriage on MTRC Services
Alongside recent concerns over passengers bringing musical instruments on to MTR services, occasional reference has been made to MTRC’s acceptance of bicycles on all services, as announced by your Mr Cheung Sing-chau, at the 16 December 2011 meeting of Government departments with cycling organisations, under the auspices of Transport Department.
Firstly, and importantly, I reiterate the consistent position of Hong Kong Cycling Alliance (HKCAll) that the step taken by MTRC was very welcome and deserving of praise and publicity, as forward-looking, environmentally responsible and aligned with the global trend towards integration of bicycle use with public transport, under policies that increasingly promote transportational and leisure cycling.
We note that, in the nearly four years since the policy was introduced:
It has proven popular with bicycle owners and smooth in operation, subject to our further comment below
It has been uncontroversial with the general public, indeed, support has been widely expressed, over that time and in public comments recently
There are however two areas in which we believe the present arrangements regarding carriage of bicycles could be improved:
Keeping bikes whole
The directive to frontline staff to request the disengagement of one wheel of a bicycle creates needless risk and inconvenience. Furthermore it does not match practice among local train service operators elsewhere.
Even when wheel removal is possible, by taking away the stability and braking system of the bike, rendering it into several large parts, and exposing potentially sharp points in a public space, this requirement turns a safely controllable object into an unwieldy and potentially dangerous inconvenience for all concerned. It also introduces the possibly fatal risk that brakes may not be reset properly.
Moreover the restriction prevents the use of MTR services by most ordinary people, with non-specialised bikes, who are unable to comply.
The lack of a clear rationale for these requests to remove a wheel causes confusion among passengers and MTR staff. Staff often cite By-law 4A but this was surely superseded by the December 2011 announcement. Partial references to dimensions regulations cannot apply, as regular-size bicycles are clearly an exception. Concerns about safety and convenience are best met by keeping the bike whole and manoeuvrable. Fears that passengers with bikes are somehow more irresponsible than everyone else, and might mount their bikes, are unfounded and such an action would anyway be covered by existing regulations.
We urge the withdrawal of the expectation that a passenger with a bicycle disengage one of its wheels.
The lack of public information about the acceptance of bikes for travel on MTR services leaves many ordinary bike users unaware of, or uncertain about, the arrangements in place, especially affecting those who are not members of clubs and associations that share such information.
Suitable promotion of this availability would not only clarify matters for everyone, but also draw appreciation of MTRC’s welcome responsible policy and environmental credentials.
HKCAll would be delighted to provide further input on these matters, or to meet with MTRC to discuss implementing such improvements, as well as other cycling issues related to MTR services.
Thank you for your attention.
On the day that acceptance of review submissions closed, MTRC announced that it would introduce a system whereby some instruments, such as cellos, could be registered for carriage, off-peak. Mention was made of possible later consideration of sports equipment (pool cues? hockey sticks?) but no reference to bikes. That leaves many questions unanswered, for other musicians, as well as anyone carrying sports gear, and, perhaps, anyone with a bike. (HKFP, SCMP, Sun)