Police have posted warning notices on Yung Shue Wan pier, Lamma Island, threatening not only to remove bicycles left on the railings but also to prosecute owners under the Summary Offences act.
“Bicycles set out/left outside Yung Shue Wan Ferry Pier may/have obstructed, endangered or caused inconvenience to others, or even obstructed the passage of Ambulance/Fire Services Vehicle,” reads the warning notice posted in English and Chinese on 4 August, ordering bicycle owners to move their bikes to the designated bicycle parking bay.
“Otherwise police will remove these bicycles and may prosecute the owners in accordance with Cap.228 (Summary Offences Ordinance), Laws of Hong Kong,” says the note, chopped by the Post Commander for Lamma Island and Peng Chau.
Former district councillor Lai Fan-yu shared the notice on Facebook writing that the parking of bicycles at the ferry pier has a “serious impact on saving lives”, claiming bicycles block emergency services vehicles.
But Lamma resident Robert Lockyer says this can’t be true. “[The police] claim to be doing it to clear the path along the pier for emergency vehicles – to be 100% honest the removal of the bikes isn’t going to make it easier for ambulances to access the ferries.”
The pier catwalk is 6.5 metres wide, with bikes propped up against pier railings taking around 2 metres total and leaving 4.5 metres for pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles.
The emergency vehicles on Lamma are “village-sized” Suzuki Everys, about 1.4 metres wide.
Lockyer claims the move instead is related to the proposed pier rebuild. “I think this is being pushed by local district council to support the need for the huge pier upgrade,” he told Transit Jam.
The government recently announced its controversial pier improvement programme would go ahead, with a consultation document from Arup claiming residents wanted to see an end to “illegal bicycle parking along catwalk and pier”. A new $25 million bike park opened at the end of the pier in 2015 but residents found it inconvenient and with insufficient capacity.
Lockyer says the pier design public consultation was rigged to support the initial design proposals of a glass wall along the pier catwalk, a design which would prevent any bicycle parking within about 100 metres of the pier entrance.
“That was a survey conducted by the local rural committee … in Chinese only, and worded with a heavy slant against bikes on the pier. The response from expats and cycling community would be 180 degrees from the survey results,” he says.
“Like all surveys if asked the right way you get the answers you want,” he says. “It was all a forgone decision.”
The police threat against bicycle owners contrasts law enforcement attitudes in another Islands District village, Mui Wo, where local officers admitted on tape they would show leniency to car drivers illegally using the Emergency Vehicle Access road and no-car zones in Mui Wo. Residents there have long complained of cars blocking ambulance and fire services access, but police have said there is no issue.
Martin Turner, chairman of Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, challenged the police to prove that actual obstruction or danger occurred in each instance, citing the Road Traffic (Parking) Regulations (Cap 374C) as allowing bicycle users a defence against a charge of illegal parking if a bike parked “on a pavement, pedestrian way, central reservation, verge, hard shoulder or traffic island”, causes no danger or actual obstruction.
Police and Transport Department did not yet comment on the disparity in enforcement attitudes between cars and bicycles, nor on how the prosecution threat would be enforced.
Catch the latest Wham Bam Tram! podcast, Episode 2 out now!