“The use of bicycles as a form of public transport should be encouraged by the Hong Kong government ”. To what extent do you agree with this view?
In the past decades, fuel-consuming transports such as private vehicles, buses and minibuses have been the major mode of transport in Hong Kong. However, due to the recent rise in environmental-friendly awareness, some citizens are suggesting the government to promote using bicycle as one of the means of transport. They pointed out that such kind of sustainable transportation could benefit the society by improving air quality and public health. Nevertheless, the feasibility of the suggestion was questioned due to the road planning and the insufficient supporting facilities in Hong Kong. After examining arguments which support cycling and which do not, I express to what extent I agree the government should encourage using bicycles as a form of public transport.
Being one of the pollution-free traveling method, cycling could improve the air quality by reducing vehicle exhaust. According to Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department (2014), road transport was the major emitter of RSP and CO, which could cause respiratory diseases and dizziness if were over-inhaled by pedestrian. By using bicycle as an alternative mode of transport, the use of private vehicles and hence the related emission of pollutant could be reduced. Consequently, the residents could enjoy a cleaner air when walking on the road in busy districts such as Mong Kok and Central.
Besides benefiting the air quality, travelling by bicycles also improves the physical fitness of the residents. In accordance to Center for Health Protection (2012), over one-third of the Hong Kong population aged 18 – 64 were classified as overweight or obese (BMI ≥ 23.0). By using active transport like cycling to work or school, the government can help people to lose body weight (Xu, Wen & Rissel, 2013). Hence improving the general health of citizens. Comparing with other forms of physical activities such as gymnasium or swimming that requires extra time, it seems that cycling for transportation might be an attractive way to exercise for those who lack sufficient time for exercising. Hence promoting active transport might also benefit the health of those with sedentary lifestyle by encouraging these people to do exercises.
Although with the aforementioned benefits, one should also consider the safety problem and the effectiveness of using bicycle for public transport.
Due to the limited land available, the width of the cycling tracks and motorway in Hong Kong are small in comparison to most foreign countries which successfully utilize bicycles as means for transportation such as Netherland and Holland. Also the distance between most of the cycling paths and the motorway are short in Hong Kong. As a result, it is a common phenomenon that the cyclists need to ride with the vehicles on the road occasionally in case the cycling path is too narrow, which is a dangerous behavior that could threaten the lives of the cyclists.
Actually, ‘bicycle related events accounted for 7.4% of all traffic incidents and 6.3% of all traffic related fatalities’ (Yeung et al., 2008, p.1), and nearly three-fourth of all cycling casualties occur on the road presumably where cyclists switch between the road network and the cycle tracks or where the network does not extend to the final destination (Transport Department [TD], 2004). This reveals that the bikers were inadequately considered in the road planning, which could put them into risks if bicycle was used as a form of public transport.
In addition to safety concern, the geometric characteristic of Hong Kong also hinder long distance travelling of bicycle. Being a mostly mountainous and landless area, not much area in Hong Kong is suitable for travelling by bicycles as it might involve slopes that most cyclist could not withstand. Actually, according to the cycling study conducted by Transport Department (2004), only 30% of the land is suitable for cycling in Hong Kong. As promoting cycling transport such as education and building facilities may involve numerous money, it brings out the question that whether the suggestion is cost-effective in achieving the proposed benefits that could result.
Discussed in this essay are the main arguments for and against using bicycle for public transport. Benefits include improving the air quality and health status of the public, while the drawbacks include putting cyclists into risk and being not cost-effective. After evaluating the evidence, I only agree to a small extent that the government should encourage using bicycle for public transportation. Although the environment and public health could be benefited by the action, I ponder the safety problem due to insufficient road area for cycling would require tremendous money to solve, if not unsolvable. It is because expanding the cycling paths and motorways might involve a significant number of land trading. Unless this problem is solved, there is a long way to go before the government can convince the public to use bicycle as a form of public transport.
1. Xu, H., Wen, L.M. & Rissel, C., 2013, The relationships between active transport to work or school and cardiovascular health or body weight a systematic review. Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health, pp. 2. http://www.td.gov.hk/filemanager/en/publication/cyclingstudy.pdf 3. http://www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/brfs_2012apr_en.pdf
4. http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/sites/default/files/epd/english/environmentinhk/air/data/files/2012HKEIReport_eng.pdf 5. http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201305/29/P201305290270.htm