The government’s failure to collect data on cycling reflects the city’s failure to support cycling and leaves officials in the dark when it comes to developing transport policy, according to the chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance Martin Turner.
Turner’s comments came at Hong Kong’s 16th annual Ride of Silence, a global event held every May to commemorate cyclists killed or injured on the roads. In Hong Kong, 16 cyclists lost their lives and more than 2,600 were injured in 2020.
The number of cycle deaths and injuries in the city has risen sharply in the last year, and while Turner said that is a “great regret for all of us,” he said the city has no data on why that might be.
“I would honestly like to know how [the casualty figures] compare with the numbers of people cycling. It seems there are lot more people cycling… but there is not real solid data for how many people ride bikes, how often and where in Hong Kong. The government doesn’t collect that data and that feeds directly into the failure of government policies and practice to protect people on bikes,” he said in a live-streamed speech from the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower.
“Transport Department and the government don’t know anything about cycling and cyclists and where people and what they do, so if we knew that we might find that the actual likelihood of dying on the roads was not any worse or maybe we were even safer because of the effect of numbers, but we don’t know,” he said.
The event, designed to be largely online, attracted a heavy police presence, with roadblocks on surrounding streets ticketing cyclists for not having lights or bells or for gathering near the Clock Tower. Around a dozen HK$5,000 tickets were given to those who showed up to the event.
Turner said the group was “surprised” by the police presence, given discussions had taken place with police community liaison teams before the event.
“We spoke to the police beforehand and they detailed about how we were to not gather in large numbers and not have banners or loudspeaker system, which we followed, but they showed up here in dozens and dozens… and are I would suggest taking a fairly heavy approach to everybody who has come here, after we had approached them and had a full discussion beforehand, which I find a bit of a problem to be honest,” said Turner.
A group of four cyclists from the event (including this reporter) was later stopped at a Nathan Road roadblock, with officers warning the group to disband as it was “on the boundary” of the legal limit of group gatherings, according to the road block officer, and “cycling past anyone else would make you a group of five”.
Some Facebook commenters blamed the organisers for not taking proper care of the group gathering rules, with one suggesting the organisers pay for participants’ tickets.
Turner later apologised to participants on a Facebook post. “If you were at TST, and caught up in the police crackdown on our humble event, we are sorry, and can only say that we were as surprised after our pre-ride discussions with them,” he wrote.
But at the event, Turner kept focus on the positive impact cycling has had around the world.
“We are here to remember and to press and ask that cyclists and cycling be respect as part of Hong Kong, and in these times of the pandemic, perhaps the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong people can follow the lead of others around the world, all around the world, and see cycling as a way out of the pandemic, to keep our city moving, and keep individuals moving safely and healthily and point the way forward for a better Hong Kong.”