A six-month e-mobility trial slammed by cycling campaigners as “prejudiced” has begun along two separated sections of Tolo Harbour cycle track.
Under the trial, registered users of approved devices wearing helmets and high-visibility vests may legally use a 2 km stretch of track between the Hong Kong Science Park and around the Ma Liu Shui pier.
The trial route then breaks, continuing on the other side of the 13 lanes of Highway 9 to near University Station.
Participants are not allowed to use their devices between the two sections and must carry or wheel their devices across the 300-metre break.
Marshals at the scene this weekend warned e-mobility users not to use their devices beyond the trial extent, handing out leaflets saying “electric mobility devices are banned on roads (including footpaths)” and warning of $5,000 fines and three months’ imprisonment for breaching the rules.
Bicycles of any kind are also banned within the Hong Kong Science Park, which co-organised the trial.
One marshal said around 30 users had registered for the six-month scheme. Transport Department later confirmed 40 users had registered for the trial. Only one e-scooter user was spotted on the track Saturday.
Transit Jam last December revealed the trial concept had been developed in secret talks with the car and e-scooter lobby, with cycle campaigners not allowed to join.
TD’s proposals started with the assumption that e-bikes and pedal-assist bikes would be banned from public roads, and all e-mobility would be restricted to cycle paths, exactly as in two earlier trials run by TD in early 2021.
Earlier, the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance (HKCAll) had criticised the trial as being prejudiced against “pedal-assist” bicycles which, it says, should be treated the same as regular bicycles.
With Hong Kong’s cycle track network limited to the New Territories, pedal-assist bicycles would effectively be banned from urban areas under TD’s proposals.
Representatives from HKCAll say their views were not taken on board for the final trial.
In fact, many of those submitting views to the “public consultation” before the trial, including HKCAll and its representatives, say they simply received a form letter justifying the original trial design.
“We consider that [pedal-assist bicycles] should not be permitted to use on footpaths (pavement) and carriageways. We will further study on whether they could be, subject to pertinent technical and safety requirements, used for short-distance commuting on cycle tracks,” said a TD reply received by at least four people or groups who had expressed support for pedal-assist bicycles
Chan Ka-leung, long-standing member and spokesperson of HKCAll, a group not invited to TD discussions on trials or regulatory direction, says people using e-assist bikes “should not be restricted from roads or the rest of Hong Kong where bicycles may go”.
“The Government seems to have started with the aim of restriction rather than identifying and enabling what is useful and appropriate for Hong Kong,” he said at the end of March.
HKCAll said pedal-assist bikes are quite different from the throttled electric bikes now proving popular with food delivery riders in delivery hotspots. Those throttled bikes often have higher horsepower and speed and can be ridden with virtually zero effort from the rider.
Pedal-assist bicycle motors, on the other hand, give the rider a push at lower speeds or on hills and cut out at higher speeds, usually 25 kph, from which point all the power comes from the rider.