I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
In my wide-eyed naivety, I thought it’d be a splendid idea to cycle to work when I first moved to Kowloon and so set about buying a second hand fold-up bike. I immediately regretted venturing out onto Waterloo Road. The comical spectacle of a lanky Westerner astride a tiny contraption with wheels the size of dinner plates provoked so much staring, I might as well have been straddling a hippo. But aside from the instant face loss and unbearable pollution, it soon became clear why the only folks who risk cycling are those with a death wish and elderly gas canister delivery blokes. So hazardous were the roads that after 3 close shaves in as many minutes, my poor bike found itself straight back on AsiaExpat.
Cycling is certainly a terrifying ordeal with government figures showing a 12.7 per cent rise in accidents since 2008 to 1,793 last year. For years, the Transport Department has been talking about linking up NT cycle lanes (a process which itself will take years). They have also promised 1,000 more parking spaces and an information service for cyclists. However, there are few plans for sharing roads in Kowloon and the Island and so – unlike in Japan and much of Europe – we remain far from transforming HK into a real haven for those on two wheels.
The local Cycling Alliance is campaigning for safer streets, bike lanes, junction ‘bike boxes’, better parking and a lifting of bike bans on public transport. They also point to the new provisions for cyclists within the UK Highway Code, on which our road system is based. While it’s no easy task to reverse-engineer a city built exclusively around the car, the government officially treats cycling as a leisure activity or sport. Instead, ‘Asia’s World City’ should be bought in line with most other modern cities and reclassify cycling as a real zero-carbon transport alternative.