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Hong Kong Ride of Silence 沉默的騎行 2016

May 19th, 2016 | Posted by wheeliefine in general cycling - (0 Comments)

We rode this evening’s 11th Hong Kong Ride of Silence in fine weather, the usual route from TST clock tower to Cheung Sha Wan and back, about 14 km.  A total of 950 riders, young and old, commuters, leisure riders and sportspeople, remembering ten people who died on our roads while cycling, and 468 seriously injured (that’s nearly one in five of all seriously injured on our roads)

At a simple ceremony at the start, a minute’s silence was held while riders kneeled beside their bikes, heads bowed.  A bell was struck ten times, once for each who passed, while the Hong Kong Adventure Corps played The Last Post.

The focus of our ride this year was the lack of consideration for people who ride bikes in the design and management of our built infrastructure.  Morevoer, when urban space is designed to be safe for people on bikes, it makes a safer and nicer city for everyone.

District Councillor Paul Zimmerman drew attention to the poor design of the cycle tracks planned for Kai Tak Development, which won’t reach to the residential areas or the MTR stations, because they are being planned without consideration of how people will use them to get around, only as a “leisure facility”.

Also joining the ride were Legislative Councillors: Hon. Dennis KWOK Wing Hang (郭榮鏗), Hon. KWOK Ka Ki (郭家麒), Hon. Frederick Fung Kin-kee (馮檢基) and Hon. Gary FAN Kwok Wai (范國威), all of whom addressed the group during the ceremony.

Daniel YM Chan - Dennis Kwok and the crowd at the start - 2276Daniel YM Chan - group at start - 2268 Daniel YM Chan - Ka Leung addresses crowd - 2278 Daniel YM Chan - Setting off 2472 Kneeling at start, by Daniel YM Chan 2331

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In a rather interesting speech, from an urban mobility point of view, the Secretary for Transport & Housing, Prof Anthony Cheung, has described Hong Kong’s transport policy as “Public Transportation Plus”, which he explains as “public transport complemented by walkability and cycling-friendly measures”. He was talking to an international conference on walking and liveable communities but even so, is this a change? a real thing?

(It’s worth reading in full)

Prof Cheung begins by wondering “whether we have become too dependent on mechanised transport to the extent of creating all kinds of social problems, including human interface, perhaps. And there are problems associated with road congestion and carbon emissions.”

So he’s identified the problem. Not a bad start for the guy supposedly in charge of our transport policy.

After presenting the Government’s “railway as backbone” policy and (justifiably) trumpeting the high modal share (90%) of public transport, Prof Cheung adds rather too much about the constraints the government works under, in a tone of “we’re trying but it’s re-eally too hard to expect real change”.

His mobility solutions focus initially much on walkability, defining it in positive terms but not breaking new ground.

He seemingly endorses a statement that one can walk three kilometres – three MTR stops – through Central, at walkway level above the roads, which isn’t true, is it? (I don’t walk much; cycling is so much easier.) And there’s the obligatory reference to the Mid-levels escalator. (He says that “Some densely populated districts in Hong Kong are .. situated in hilly places”. But I can’t think of any, other than Mid-levels. Echoes of the “HK is too mountainous for cycling” meme.) He talks glowingly about pedestrianised streets but then hints at the fact that some are being withdrawn (allegedly after someone complained).

Selected other interesting admissions, claims and policy positions:

  • Rush-hour speed on some main roads is only 10 km/h
  • Building more roads brings more traffic, and more environmental problems [True, of course]
  • Government policy is to “discourage the use of private cars” [I’m not sure I’ve seen evidence of that, unless you count ‘affordable public transport’]
  • Hong Kong was rated “the most walkable” city of China (by NRDC) [not all agree]
  • Hong Kong is always rainy and hot [oh yeah, right]
  • “In the past, cycling was only considered to be something for leisure. But nowadays, we regard it as a form of short-distance green commuting.” [still with caveats, and not quite the first time it’s been said, but still good to hear.]
  • still discouraging cycling in the urban areas “for safety reasons” and apparently not challenging that situation
  • we need a mindset change in the community .. as much as .. among policymakers ..to move away from an unduly vehicular-based or biased mobility perspective. [Well, yes.., but does that mean you’re waiting for the public to change first? What happened to leadership?]

Now for the part that, arguably, talks up cycling.

Prof Cheung says “We also need diversity in our mobility system to cater for different travel needs.  Hence, we promote walking and cycling as a mode of short-distance commuting through the provision of pedestrian walkways and cycle tracks.” Not quite committing to a six percent bike mode share by 2020 [as New York has] but at least he flew to Vienna to talk about cycling in Hong Kong.

He goes on to say that motorists, pedestrians and cyclists compete for road space (and always will). Taking that positively, I see an endorsement of our right to use even busy roads. Of course that’s always been true, but many in HK don’t get it. On the other hand, it suggests no interest in pushing back against the ‘competition’ of (some) aggressive people in a ton of armoured motor vehicle against others, more vulnerable, who are making a net positive contribution to society.

Another quote: “we seek to improve our public transport system complemented with suitable walkability and cycling measures”. Yeah, well, ‘suitable’ is another weasel word, but he said ‘cycling’. Several times.

Notably, he defined the New Territories Cycle Track Network as “so that the public can cycle for both commuting and leisure”, which is new – it’s always been described as for leisure and recreation. What’s left of it, and if it ever gets built.

Overall, there are warm and quite strong generalities about cycling and especially walking, though without any new specifics. This Secretary for Transport and Housing is reportedly more favourable to cycling than the Transport Department under him and this speech includes some pleasantly surprising facts and statements. Given the paucity of good news coming out of this government, I’m prepare to see a glass that’s, if not half-full, then at least providing a few refreshing sips.

 

The speech is available here.

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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.

Broader publicity

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)

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Complete Streets policies promoted in US

January 27th, 2015 | Posted by wheeliefine in advocacy | bike safety | transport - (1 Comments)

The United States government is pressing city and local officials to develop and improve cycling practice and infrastructure, leveraging a trend that has seen US cities hurrying to catch up Europe and the rest of the world, after a slow start.

This stance, initiated in 2010 with support for the development of fully integrated active transportation networks, urges that cycling and walking “should be considered equally important as other transportation modes” and recognises the benefits of more people taking up active mobility.

A new Federal initiative – which the Hong Kong Transport Department could usefully study – focuses on the safety of people who walk or bike, under this transformative ‘Complete Streets‘ approach.

Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets (January 2015)

 

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In Legco yesterday, the tourism industry rep, YIU Si Wing (姚思榮) asked Transport and Housing Bureau if it was/would:

(a) extend the cycle track network to former Frontier area;
(b) develop cycle tracks on the harbourfront;
(c) set up a public bicycle hiring system
(d) promote cycling tourism

Responses from Anthony Cheung, the Secretary for Transport and Housing, were, in summary:

a) yes, perhaps;
b) [ignored question];
c) no; and
d) ‘yes’ [but actually only trivially]

The first ‘perhaps’ is worth noting: about cycle tracks going into the former Frontier Closed Area.  All leisure cycle tracks are a plus for Hong Kong, though we need to keep pointing out that they are merely a feature, and certainly not the sum total of cycling here, as TD likes to pretend.  So half a cheer for that ‘perhaps’.

Regarding public bicycle rental systems, the Secretary referred to the TD study that was finally released earlier this year (“Traffic and Transport Consultancy Study on Cycling Networks and Parking Facilities in Existing New Towns in Hong Kong“), which was overly narrow in scope, two years late, trivial in its analysis and negative or inconclusive on the issues it was supposed to study.

Based on that, he rejected any kind of public bicycle rental system (referring to new towns, and ignoring everywhere else), because a) it needs many nodes; b) it requires some load balancing between nodes (moving bikes around to meet need); c) maintenance of bikes; d) existing private rental services “can already meet demand”; e) Hong Kong’s land resources are too limited to provide public rental points.

What a load of tripe!  Firstly, there are also excellent potential locations for a public bike share scheme outside the new towns, such as in Kai Tak Development / CBD2, West Kowloon, along the new NT Cycle Track Network, and of course, along the Harbourfront Cycleway (when we ultimately force it into existence).

His responses a), b) and c) simply cite characteristics of a public bicycle rental system, no different from those handled by the 500+ (and rapidly rising) schemes around the world, especially in mainland China.  Along with response e), he’s peddling the old canard that Hong Kong is so special that the rest of the world can teach us nothing.  And finally, by citing existing rental he is missing the whole value of a network of pick-up and drop-off points. (actually ‘protecting’ the business of a handful of operators, who’d probably anyway benefit from the upsurge in interest, if only they could adapt to it.)

The question about developing cycle tracks along the harbourfront was flatly ignored.  How can a government minister do that?  Didn’t the THB read the question?  Does it think no one will notice?  Or does it simply have no respect for Legco and not care who knows?

All in all, the Secretary’s reply showed that our government still doesn’t ‘get’ cycling, or its obligation to work for us.

More work to do.

See:
Press release, with full text

Blogpost about cycle tracks (‘我們的單車徑’) by Secretary for Development Paul Chan (陳茂波),
22 Sept 2013 (Chinese only)

 

 

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Tung Chung New Town Extension Study – Stage 2 Public Engagement

Planning Department and CEDD are preparing to expand Tung Chung.  But despite the existing popularity of cycling in the town, cycling and cycle tracks are downplayed.  (There are bike icons on the cover, and a mention of ‘cycle tracks along the waterfront promenade’, but nothing in the planning principles or other important parts of the document.)

We need to make sure that cycling is integrated into the heart of planning of new Tung Chung, to all destinations.  That includes roads and tracks that facilitate getting efficiently around the area by bike, parking (residential and spread across district).

First, see the Stage 1 study (you may need to use Internet Explorer to view it properly)

How to get involved, under the Stage 2 Public Engagement:

(1) ‘Community Workshop
22 June 2013 (Saturday), 2:00pm – 5:30pm (need to pre-register by 20 June)
Venue: HK Federation of Education Workers Wong Cho Bau Secondary School (map)

(2) ‘Public Forum’

13 July 2013 (Saturday), 2:00pm – 5:30pm (need to pre-register by 11 July)
Venue: HK Federation of Education Workers Wong Cho Bau Secondary School (map)

(It’s not clear what happens at these two events, or the difference between them)

(3) Make a written submission, either via their dull form (eg. ‘Do you want continuous walkways?’) with options to write your own answers;

OR just write to PlanD and CEDD, at:
skisdpo@pland.gov.hk and tungchung@cedd.gov.hk (deadline: 21 July – but do it now!)

Please email us at info@hkcyclingalliance.org if you’re going to a public meeting. If you write, please cc us.

You can phone them at:
PlanD: Sai Kung and Islands Districts Planning Office, 2158 6177 (fax: 2367 2976)
CEDD: HK Island and Islands Development Office, 2231 4408 (fax: 2577 5040)

The Stage One study

The Stage One study includes decorative icons and images of bikes, and mentions cycle tracks in the text.  But why isn’t cycling among the planning principles or the transport section, and why are there no details at all of the ‘cycle tracks’ – they’re not even shown on the map?  What are we being offered?

Cycling should be at the heart of the new Tung Chung, not merely window dressing.

Although the ‘cycling is leisure’ mantra is not trumpeted in this study, government is still very reluctant to recognise cycling as transport, let alone integrate it into planning.  So cycling is mentioned (even ‘commuting’, slightly), to look good, but actually left vague.   Without a firm commitment to build Tung Chung around cycling connectivity, we’ll end up with the same old disjointed, badly designed paths and no supporting effort to promote and enable functional cycling.

Don’t believe the pretty pictures; look at the text.

In the study’s 15 pages, here is what we get:

  • 海濱長廊及連綿的公園都會附設單車徑,以推廣單車成為區內的環保交通工具 Provide cycle tracks along the waterfront promenade and linear parks to promote cycling as a green commuting tool in Tung Chung

[what about cycling everywhere else? tracks can be good, and people cycle on roads and mixed-use area too.  So enable cycle traffic flow – no pointless barriers or dismount signs.  Encourage sensible sharing of space.  ]

  • 主要交通及社區設施附近提供足夠單車泊位以鼓勵居民使用單車 Provide adequate cycle parking space near major transport and community facilities to encourage cycling

[But people need to park at any locality, not just large bike parks at major facilities.  What about local parking near any shops or other places people go?  Eg. enable individual parking at most lampposts, signposts and railings.]

 

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After three years, Transport Department has casually put up on its website the ‘Nine Towns Study’ that it has been promising for so long:
Traffic and Transport Consultancy Study on Cycling Networks, Parking Facilities in Existing New Towns in Hong Kong

I’ve not had time to read it all yet, but, like the interim reports, the result seems underwhelming.  It only ever tried to look at cycle tracks and a few specific facilities in new towns, not general cycling on roads and the cycling environment as a whole.  Or planning ahead for New Development Areas.  And I note that the original scope has been cut, with no sign of the promised “conceptual improvement layout plan for each new town”.

On parking, it notes that there is not enough designated parking (that took three years to work out?) but the discussion quickly drops into TD’s favourite issue of what style of parking facility to buy, rather than, say, how to measure and determine where parking is necessary, especially small-scale distributed parking, away from the obvious MTR locations.  (Cyclehoop, anybody?)

The issue of poor connectivity of tracks is identified, which is good, but this problem will never be successfully addressed until we aim to maximise throughflow of bike traffic — as in, prioritising cyclists wherever possible, and certainly wherever bikes are the major flow.  No mention of that here.

The proposals, within this narrow remit, seem mostly small-scale and unimaginative.  So we have a three-year, multi-million-dollar report suggesting things like:

  • put up plastic bollards in place of steel – to reduce injury severity (already TD’s plan, when they should be removed entirely to .. er .. eliminate the injuries altogether);
  • paint markings to guide cyclists away from obstacles (just a stopgap: where are the planning guidelines for obstacle-free cycleways?);
  • paint track surface colours to show trunk and local routes (irrelevant if tracks are still used by commuters, wobblers, sports riders, and kids, with no policy consideration of who and what the tracks are for. Or real training.)
  • lots of soft padding on things in the way, such as newly erected poles carrying mirrors.
  • installing railings designed to make parking your bike harder (when it’s not even an offence to park a bike on a footway, central reserve, verge, hard shoulder etc, if no danger or actual obstruction is caused).

Of course, the study makes a number of valid points and raises genuine issues.  In particular, it presses for tracks to be connected at various places where currently there are gaps (and recognises that this will involve rebalancing some priorities). It also calls for the implementation of shared footpaths; improved signage and surface markings; cyclist access to leisure facilities (ie. everywhere managed by LCSD); and having Highways Dept staff cycle the tracks at night to determine lighting needs. Many specific problem locations on tracks are enumerated.

If the government, starting with TD, intends to act positively, the study could point towards some modest improvements for cyclists in the new towns.

However, in essence, by looking only at cycle tracks, with no assessment of wider transport policy, patterns of cycle journeys made, and aspirations among cyclists and potential cyclists, it was never going to offer a strategy for more effectively incorporating cycling into our communities.  Then by proposing largely what TD is already thinking (or has done!) – minor capital expenditure that tinkers with existing infrastructure, and no solid planning basis for avoiding the same mistakes in future – it falls sadly flat.

More detailed comment will follow.

You can read the report here:
http://www.td.gov.hk/filemanager/en/publication/td_194_2009_es_eng.pdf

 

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Cycling in London gets better

April 10th, 2013 | Posted by wheeliefine in general cycling - (1 Comments)

Whether or not you follow the progress of cycling in London, it is interesting that the city’s new ‘cycling commissioner’,  Andrew Gilligan, is being candid and constructive about where London’s bike environment is, and where it is going.

Of course, he recognises that attention must be paid to both segregated and on-road routes, and particularly he emphasises the need for designs that meet international best practice, criticising several schemes already in progress, which would be already heavenly in Hong Kong terms, in that they were implemented by an administration that believed in the contribution of cycling.  But the low position we start from here is an opportunity, right?

This post from ‘Cyclists in the City’ is recommended.

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Where is Asia’s most bike friendly city?

November 4th, 2012 | Posted by wheeliefine in fun - (1 Comments)

As Boulder edges out Portland for the title of North America’s most bike friendly city (in one ranking, anyway), and Amsterdam and Copenhagen jostle for the European cycling crown, we ask ourselves, how do Asia’s cities measure up for getting around on two wheels?

Beijing is the capital of the world’s most cycling-rich country, and still designed for bikes. Its cycling modal share may have dropped from 63% to 17% but could improve again soon – the city government aims to boost it to 23% by 2015.  Hangzhou has the world’s largest public bike share scheme, with an incredible 65,000 bikes at 2400 rental stations.  And Kunming is appreciated by those that ride there; it has a comfortable pace of life, and plenty of space.  Across the water, Kyoto is a functional cycling city with a dash of European style – it’s normal to ride everywhere around town, dressed for the destination, not the vehicle.

Taiwan is on everyone’s cycling radar these days: Taipei has a wonderful network of paths, and the Kaohsiung public bike share scheme is fab.  The city has 150 km of tracks and a lot of the back streets are free of road markings, so everyone drives gently and looks out for everyone else.  Even in Singapore, the government took the step that Hong Kong first needs to: publicly stating that cycling is transport, and then implementing measures to facilitate it.  They’ve been a bit quiet about it recently though.

Melbourne gets rated highly.  It’s flat and there’s a modest bike share scheme in the city centre. The 200+ km Around the Bay in a Day event draws the crowds and raises cycling’s profile. But Australia’s mandatory helmets law adds hassle for newcomers.  In fun places like Bali or Chiang Mai, cycling is widespread and effective, and certainly friendly, but it’s not quite urban cycling. 

One from the back pocket: three years ago, authorities in Seoul announced that the city would increase bicycle use from 1.6 percent to 10 percent by 2020. How are they doing?

What about Pyongyang?  The roads are blessedly free of cars (since no one can afford them) and 70% of North Korean households rely on their bikes to get around.  Plus, the new, young, just-possibly-normal leader, Kim Jong Un, recently rescinded the 16-year ban on women riding bikes (though it was introduced after the hit-and-run death of the daughter of a prominent general as she cycled in the capital).

And what does Hong Kong have to do to be a contender?  The administration’s negligent contribution is a handicap of course.  But huge numbers of people cycle anyway, for transport and enjoyment, and both the urban areas and countryside offer huge potential for getting around on two wheels. Shouldn’t enthusiastic and increasing participation count for us, or at least boost our chances for the future?  And will the government see the light some time soon?

 

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An interesting new report from Civic Exchange takes a detailed look at how we should be moving around – and enjoying – our built space, here in Hong Kong.  It focuses on walking but embraces cycling as part of a much-needed shift in thinking towards personal mobility.  Cycling and walking are together at the core of a global change in urban planning that is sadly not yet seriously encountered within the realm of .gov.hk.

The report points out that, increasingly, other world cities are improving transport by making “more priority to cycling and walking” a policy goal. The quote is from Melbourne, but similar examples from London, New York, Seoul, Toronto and many others are included.

If reading this study makes you want a more cyclable, as well as a more walkable, Hong Kong, and you’d like to be a part of making it happen, please contact us!

Report

 

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