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單車團體過去多次要求開放巿區禁止單車的關鍵路段,而今日在運輸署與單車團體的會議上,討論了由顧問公司(Atkins)做的有關BPZ(Bike Prohibition Zone)的「檢討」(現有單車限制區檢討Review of Existing Bicycle Prohibition Zones)(下稱「檢討」),而香港單車同盟的專業工程師做了十分詳盡及有力的回應,指出整個Atkins研究的方法及錯誤引用的圖表資料,充滿了誤導。例如引用的澳洲指引(Austroad Guide)其中一個圖表,原本是關於設計單車徑時,上斜坡度及長度對踩單車的「舒適度」的影響,和「安全」及「禁止」單車完全無關,但「檢討」卻是誤用來作為禁止單車的根據。又例如以高車速及車流作為單車「不適合與一般車輛混合」的理據,但其實真相是圖表原本是表示應該如何選擇最適當的單車基建,(是否適合建單車徑?還是單車行車線道?還是和汽車共用同一路面?)如果車速高及車流大,最好就是為巿民提供單車徑,和禁止單車剛好是相反的意思,但這「檢討」卻說成是禁止單車的理據,與其說這是誤導,甚至也可以說是「失實」。

而如果「檢討」真正落實,香港所有現時禁止單車的路段將會繼續被禁止,這將無助推動單車友善城巿,反而是以錯誤的方法為禁止單車捏造出看似合理的根據。

另外,「檢討」會咨詢其他所謂持分者例如區議會及汽車、的士等團體對單車限制區檢討的意見,這也是多此一舉及只會製造問題。由幾時開始,單車限制要咨詢汽車團體?又是否考慮設立小巴禁區、的士禁區時也要咨詢單車團體?

香港單車同盟建議在考慮單車在馬路的使用時,應該仿傚各國的單車友善做法,明確肯定現時單車的路權,香港所有道路也應允許騎單車(除高速公路,並根據適用的法律和法規指定的隧道),而如果在某些位置需要禁止單車行駛,必需要提出給公眾每個禁止的合理理由。

橋樑和地下通道是重要的交通連接,本身並沒有必然的危險性。在大多數情況及默認情況下,應該開放給所有交通。而任何的約束也應該考慮到單車的正常駛用。
參考:「現有單車限制區檢討Review of Existing Bicycle Prohibition Zones」
詳細回應:Cycling is Permitted Feedback on Atkins Study by HKCAll

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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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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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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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From the NPR website comes an article about cycling infrastructure that we can dream of here in Hong Kong.

Every day, one-third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school. Collectively, they cycle more than 750,000 miles daily, enough to make it to the moon and back. And city officials want even more people to commute, and over longer distances.

So a network of 26 new bike routes, dubbed “the cycling superhighway,” is being built to link the surrounding suburbs to Copenhagen.

Lars Gaardhoj, an official with the Copenhagen capital region, says the routes will be straight and direct.

“It will be very fast for people who use their bike,” he says. “This is new because traditionally cycle paths have been placed where there is space for them and the cars didn’t run. So now the bike is going to challenge the car.”

The first highway, to the busy suburb of Albertslund some 10 miles outside the city, was completed in April.

To test it, I got a rental bike and went out for a ride.

No Place For Slowpokes

One of the first things you learn about these bike lanes is that you have to move in fast. This is not leisurely biking — this is serious stuff in Copenhagen.

It’s a parallel world of transportation: You’ve got the cars on the roads and the people on their bikes. There are thousands and thousands of people on their bikes here in this city.

NPR reporter Eleanor Beardsley rides in one of the new bike lanes in Copenhagen. The city is building more than two dozen lanes from the suburbs into the city. They cater to cyclists by including such things as rails and footrests at stoplights.

EnlargeCourtesy of Eleanor Beardsley for NPRNPR reporter Eleanor Beardsley rides in one of the new bike lanes in Copenhagen. The city is building more than two dozen lanes from the suburbs into the city. They cater to cyclists by including such things as rails and footrests at stoplights.

As commuters pour into Copenhaghen on the new highway, I stop biker Cona Endelgo at a red light. Endelgo says he used to drive his car to work, but biking is better.

“It gives you more exercise and motion, and it’s more free, and it’s quicker. When I pass the harbor, I wave to the cars,” he says.

Each mile of bike highway will cost about $1 million. The project is to be financed by the city of Copenhagen and 21 local governments. And in a country where both right- and left-leaning politicians regularly ride bikes to work, it has bilateral support.

Addressing The Needs Of Bikers

Several innovations are being tested, like “green wave” technology, which times traffic lights to suit bikers. If you maintain a certain pace, you can ride all the way through into the city without stopping. There are also footrests with bars to lean on at traffic lights, and a bike pump every mile in case you have a flat.

Outside the city, the pace is slower and people talk to each other as they ride. Jacob Messen, 33, is on his way to a water park with his kids. He says support for the project runs deep.

“Bicycles are a very essential element in most people’s lives in Denmark,” he says. “We have them as small infants and all the way up through the ages.”

He’s not kidding. Another rider, 83-year-old Soulva Jensen, is using the highway to visit her daughter in a neighboring town.

“The trains are too much trouble at the moment, so I thought it was easier to take the bike,” she says.

Once the highway network is completed, an estimated 15,000 additional people will switch from driving to biking. And that, say officials, will have a direct impact on the environment, public health and finances. The bike highway alone is expected to save Copenhagen’s health care system some $60 million a year.

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This is reproduced from the excellent Transportation Alternatives website

A few years ago, the New York Times published a five-sentence brief about a man who “intentionally ran over five people” with an SUV after a fight in North Bellmore, Long Island. The driver, the Times reported, “fled the scene of the accident.” The police later located the vehicle that “they believed was involved in the accident.” One of the victims was in critical condition.

Ho hum. News briefs about the previous day’s car crashes are as routine as box scores and the weather forecast. Yet, in this case, the Times’ (and, presumably, the Nassau County cops’) choice of one particular word stood out: If a man intentionally ran over five people, how could that possibly be considered an accident? If, instead of car keys, the man had picked up a gun and shot five people, would the press and police have called that an “accident” too? No. They’d have called it “attempted homicide.” Yet, for some reason when the weapon is a car, when the violence on our streets is done with a motor vehicle, it’s always just an “accident.”

So, is it any surprise that the NYPD’s “Accident” Investigation Squad so frequently declares “no criminality suspected” after a motor vehicle is used to kill a pedestrian or cyclist on New York City streets? After all, they don’t call themselves the Motor Vehicle Manslaughter Squad. They don’t think of themselves as homicide detectives, or cars as weapons, or drivers as killers. The word “accident” implies no fault. It’s what we call it when a toddler makes a small mess. “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” we say. The assumption is built into the name of the NYPD bureaucracy itself: Death by motor vehicle is an “accident” before the investigators even get to what may very well be the scene of a crime. The Accident Investigation Squad is there to clean up and keep the traffic moving.

Though it may sometimes seem otherwise, New York City drivers don’t wake up in the morning intending to harm pedestrians and cyclists. Most crashes are unintentional and “accident” is not an inaccurate word to describe them. But the fact remains: Driver negligence is the number one cause of crashes, and it’s no big surprise—or accident—when negligent driving hurts and kills people on crowded city streets. In fact, our legal system has a word for this type of unintentional killing: “Manslaughter.” Lots of work needs to be done and lots of things need to change to fix the way the NYPD deals with pedestrians and cyclists who have been injured and killed by negligent drivers. But if it’s true that small changes in language can have a big impact on public policy, then the easiest change is simply this: Stop calling car crashes “accidents.”

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運輸署剛剛發佈了新一段「單車安全」短片。此14分鐘短片將在各學校及警署、車輛牌照事務處等政府場地巡迴播放。

網上版本共分為6段:裝備、騎單車基本技巧、實戰篇–單車徑上、實戰篇–馬路上、駕駛者須知、行人須知。

訴說本同盟會對影片意見之前,何不由你來評論?

Chinese version

The Transport Department has just released a new ‘Cycling Safety’ video.  It’s 14 minutes long and will be shown in schools and at government offices open to the public, such as vehicle licensing centres and police stations.

This online version is split into six sections: Equipment, Basic Skills, Riding on Cycle Tracks, Riding on the Road, For Motorists and For Pedestrians.

Rather than telling you what we think of it, immediately, why not take a look and tell us your view?

English version

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After being hit by a taxi, Anthony has been discussing with Transport Department about installing an Advanced Stop box for cyclists on southbound Waterloo Road at the junction with Wylie Road.

Advanced Stop Lines/Boxes are used around the world, giving cyclists a safe and visible place to stop and wait at traffic lights, whilst having a minimal effect on space for cars and other vehicles. ASL’s have made a large impact in London in particular where they are installed in large numbers. It is time for Hong Kong to embrace the bicycle as a feasible mode of transport and enable it with simple measures like these.

The proposed stop box is in the centre of the photo on the left, between the two drains, taking up no existing traffic waiting space whilst enabling cyclists to wait for the traffic lights in safety.

曾經被的士撞過後,Anthony一直與運輸署溝通,討論在窩打老道南端與衛理道交界設置進階停車區。
縱觀全球,停車線/區一般提供安全並清晰的地點,供單車人士停車等候交通燈,而盡量避免影響其他汽車。設置大量停車線,對倫敦帶來重大改變。簡單的裝置使單車更能發揮其代步功用,香港也是時候想一想了。

在相片中,提議的停車區位於兩個水渠蓋之間,中間偏左的地方,容許單車人士安全地等候轉燈之際卻不需侵佔現有交通空位,何樂而不為?

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.. in the UK.

Already the location of many exciting local and national cycling initiatives, the United Kingdom is taking further steps to ensure that cycling maintains a central role in development across the country.  The transport minister responsible for cycling (sigh .. here in Hong Kong, our government won’t even acknowledge that cycling *is* transport) has emphasised that cycling is “mainstream transport policy” and is coordinating the integration of cycling-enabled environment in all areas.

Read all about it here.

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This is extracted from a recent post on the excellent London Cycling Campaign website.

A short, sharp message from Transport for London headlines their latest PR campaign warning about the danger of HGV lorries.

Thousands of handlebar leaflets are being put on bikes all over London and there will be posters re-enforcing the message.

The posters give a very quick warning to all cyclists. Beware of all lorries, staying behind is the safest option.

Being hit by a large lorry is thankfully rare but always serious and more likely to be fatal than any other crash. If there is a junction nearby, don’t try to overtake as lorries turn quickly, cutting across your path.

TfL’s website gives more safety tips:

Cycle sensibly and assertively to help yourself stay safe, especially at traffic lights and junctions.

  • Recognise that lorry drivers may not be able to see you
  • Never cycle up the left side of a lorry stopped at a junction
  • Look out for lorries turning left from beside or behind you
  • Don’t stop too close to the front of a stopped lorry and stay away from the lorry’s front near side. If a lorry comes up behind you, move forward enough to ensure you are in the driver’s field of vision
  • Take up a visible position at lights or advanced stop lines: three metres out in front and not by the left kerb or very close to the lorry
  • Behind a lorry is often the safest place to be. When you need to overtake a large lorry, do so on the right-hand side, so that the driver can see you

TfL links to London Cycling Campaign’s advice for staying out of the lorry risk zone.

They also link to our Safer Cycling Code and the See Me, Save Me campaign for reducing lorry danger.

Lorry Drivers also targeted

Transport for London is keen to point out that it is also targeting lorry drivers. – The HK Government does not even target car drivers, but it would be a great and necessary step for them to also target lorry drivers.

There are press campaigns in the truckers’ magazines, as well as a webpage for drivers.

They will be putting on information events at channel ports and lorry service areas, aimed at drivers heading for London. – This kind of informational event is perfectly possible on Hong Kong also, around the container ports and at the road crossings from mainland china.

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