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:
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