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.
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)