Artists view of the renovated Happy Valley Recreation Ground in Hong Kong, showing soccer pitches and footballers surrounded by the tall apartment buildings of Happy Valley

Come for healthy outdoor sport… just don’t come by bike

Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) has drawn fire for comments made during an Ombudsman investigation into the department’s policy on bicycle parking.

In a February 6 written response to the Ombudsman, LCSD official Dickson Chow, writing on behalf of LCSD Director Vincent Liu, was defending the government’s decision to ban bikes (whether ridden, walked, carried or parked) from the newly renovated Happy Valley Recreation Ground (HVRG), claiming “other users may be concerned about the potential risks of bicycles to other park users, especially the elderly and children.”

But Martin Turner, Chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance 香港單車同盟, said LCSD’s response was disrespectful to cyclists. “The suggestion that children and the elderly are somehow at risk from people on bicycles is disrespectful to those users of LCSD facilities who happen to be on bikes. It implies those people take less care than others,” he said. “If knocking people down by kicking, punching or crashing bicycles into them is not allowed, then by all means have such rules.”

Construction site at Happy Valley Recreation Ground, showing widespread construction work as soccer pitches and changing rooms are rebuilt and a new reservoir is created underneath

Major renovations at Happy Valley did not include any mobility options beyond car parking

The HVRG has undergone a HK$150 million renovation in recent years, with new changing rooms, sports turf pitches, fitness stations and a jogging track. When questioned, LCSD downplayed the renovations, claiming they were just providing basic new amenities – but the fact is, the entire surface of the inner field has been razed, re-built and re-landscaped under the project, with many opportunities to install simple bicycle parking facilities.

Scruffy and poorly designed entrance to Happy Valley in-field car park

Bikes are not allowed for safety reasons… cars are allowed because venue staff “ensure drivers will comply” with safety rules

Addressing the fact that while bikes are banned, motor vehicles – from SUVs and tractors to horse carriers – are allowed to drive and park within the same area, Chow said that venue staff would “ensure that drivers would comply with our terms and conditions stated for vehicle entry to HVRG”.

And when pressed for other reasons for the lack of bicycle facilities at the venue, Chow had said that, since cycling was not allowed in the venue, and that there are no public cycling track or bike paths around Causeway Bay, “the provision of designated cycling area and bicycle parking spaces were not included in the refurbishment projects.”

But Turner said this, too, was a strange excuse. “The suggestion that no parking provision is necessary because there are no cycling tracks [or bike paths] in the area strangely ignores the reality that most cycling in Hong Kong takes place on public roads.”

Turner said cycling community has long been unimpressed with LCSD’s approach to cycling. “While Hong Kong’s Transport Department (TD) has done little to pursue active mobility advances seen elsewhere in the last 20 years, that is surely no reason for LCSD not to follow best practices in its field? Other cities’ park and property authorities increasingly support cycling in their metro areas,” he said.

Turner said LCSD had previously made a “concession” to cyclists, allowing bikes to be pushed (not ridden) through just 30 of its 1,700 public pleasure grounds. “We cyclists at those meetings were not impressed,” he said.

While banning bikes on the grounds of health and safety, LCSD does allow smoking, or provides smoking areas for smokers, in 77 of its parks and pleasure grounds.

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