Cycling in a city

Bike in Tokyo, 2015.

Bike in Tokyo, 2015.

Cycling is always a good idea when traveling, especially in a city without a comprehensive transport system. Even there is one, I still prefer it due to the experience said in a book Londoners, the sense of ownership,

But once you cycle round London, you take much better control of it than on the Tube or even the bus. You work out your own routes and you know exactly where you are and you know how long it's going to take you to get from one place to another, and you're not dependent on the vagaries of the transport system. I think there is something about controlling your own route and deciding whether you're going to turn left or right and will I cut cross the park or will I go round? All those things give you a sense of ownership that you don't get when you're on public transport and somebody else is delivering you to the second point.

Especially I don’t have a driving license. Cycling can give me much more freedom than cars, as I don’t need to plan and I can ride anywhere and start and stop as I like. Sometimes bike is faster than other modes of transport as the walking distance and time to some places always compensate its efficiency.

I always admire the city which provides bike share system with hundreds of stations disturbed in different areas. I can get a bike in most parts of the city anytime, and return it in other places. When more and more (big) cities are developing this kind of system, it never comes to my city, Hong Kong, unfortunately.

In a city always emphasizing good design and innovation, Tokyo is a place telling you what a bike sharing system and a bike itself should be. Throwing back to the trip in this city last year, I got an electric bike in Odaiba. At first I didn’t realize why electricity was needed in a bike, but later on I understood it was an option to go upward much more easily. When I turned on the power, the bike accelerated so quickly.

There are other designs like the passcode security system so that a key is not needed anymore. A rear-view mirror is also given to make a bike like a private car! It can be useful especially when riding in some narrow roads without a bike path in the dark. A basket at the front and a headlight generated by kinetic energy when biking are small but really helpful designs.




Odaiba, or Koto area exactly, is one of the big districts in Tokyo, with an efficient Yurikamome subway system covering 16 parts and frequent bus services. Even with the best, flexibility is what public transport can’t provide, as their supply and routing depend so much on the demand from the community. Bike is like a private car but it is more environmentally friendly and no driving license is needed. I have done some statistics according to my past travel experiences, that bike itself can bring people to places 10 to 15km far away so easily, which should be done within an hour! This distance can actually cover a lot of areas in a city. Imagine when we can bike around Hong Kong Island, cycling from Causeway Bay to Central only needs about 20 to 30 mins (4.1km according to Google Maps), which is less slower than taking subway and bus. Besides, with bikes traffic congestion is impossible, and they don’t produce a lot of greenhouse gas and other pollutants.

People may say that it’s impossible to have bike friendly roads and systems in a highly developed urban area like Hong Kong Island. I would say there are ‘challenges’ we should cope with, rather than ‘obstacles’ that can’t come true. (I believe the bike infrastructure and culture is not always easy even in Tokyo and Europe) Solutions can be figured out by design thinking and conventional wisdom. There are still some wide pedestrian pathways with low usage which can reserve some space for bikes, and the coastal areas as voiced out by so many cyclists should be strongly considered to make them more bike friendly. Saying something impossible is what Hong Kong people always do, and such a conclusion is the worst procrastination making the situation even worse!



LifeAlvin Cheng