One of the most famous and picturesque stretches of the New Territories cycle track has been destroyed by construction work for a new Community Isolation Facility (CIF).
Cyclists and commuters using the track at Pok Wai South Road in Yuen Long this week were blocked by a trench that obliterated the new two-lane track, with piles of mud, machinery and construction materials obstructing any path remaining.
Jasper Walker, a co-host of RTHK show Wham Bam Tram!, says he was cycling around Yuen Long yesterday evening when he came across the unexpected scene.
Walker says around 50 metres of track is now gone, and the footpath is also blocked.
“There was no diversion and trucks were reversing into the road,” he says.
The Tam Mei isolation facility, built on land loaned by Sun Hung Kai Development, is one of nine CIFs being built with “staunch support” from the mainland under “emergency powers” granted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
In an ironic twist, the actual stretch of track destroyed by the Tam Mei construction work was personally promoted by Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun in his blog in July 2020, as the government promoted the opening of the new Yuen Long to Sheung Shui cycle network.
“[The government] designed the alignment of the cycle track passing along spots with beautiful scenery, such as the area by Kam Tin River in Yuen Long shown in the picture,” wrote Wong, pointing to an aerial shot of the now-destroyed Pok Wai South Road stretch.
That aerial photo was widely used in government press promotion of the new cycle track, appearing in hundreds of articles including third spot in Time Out‘s “50 most incredible things to do in Hong Kong”.
The development secretary’s 2020 blog post is in stark contrast to the environmental destruction witnessed this week.
“The project team had considered the impacts of the cycle track alignment on the residents, environment and ecology in the vicinity, so as to optimise its design to avoid affecting some conservation areas, bird habitats, etc,” wrote Wong in 2020.
Questions have already been raised about the environmental impact of the nine facilities, many of which are being built on environmentally sensitive land. No government department has responded to Transit Jam‘s questions on environmental due process, worker health and safety or jurisdiction issues.
Walker, who rents Loco dockless bikes to explore the area, says the rest of the track in the area is in a bad state. “There’s a few minor roadworks on and around that route. At least half of them got the ‘cyclists dismount’ and ‘end of cyclists dismount’ signs mixed up,” he says.
Development Bureau says it needs some time to answer questions about the track and will revert later.