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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.

在旅行時騎自行車或單車是一個不錯的主意,尤其身處在交通系統不太完善的社區。即使一個城市交通方便的話,我仍會傾向選擇單車。我沒有駕駛執照,有一輛單車就像有了私家車,自己有更大的自由度想去哪就再哪,而且不用事先計劃。有的時候單車反而比其他交通工具外,因為依靠他們還得加上步行的時間和路程。

我常常響往有提供自助租單系統的城市,數以百計的單車站遍佈城市不同角落,可以在任何一點租借,另一點歸還。當愈來愈多城市引入這個系統,很可惜香港還未出現。

在講求創新和設計的都市,東京的體驗告訴了一個自助單車系統,以及單車本身應該怎樣。回到去年的旅行,我在台場租借了一輛電動單車。我起初不理解電動單車的原意,原來它在上斜的時候發揮了很大的作用。還有其他的設計如密碼鎖車、倒後鏡、騎車時因動能驅動的車頭燈也是很貼心的設計。

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!

台場,或正確來說:江東區,是東京都一個很大的地區,區內有百合海鷗號高架鐵路以及巴士服務。即使公共交通能提供不錯的服務,彈性始終是它們所不能提供的,因為服務如何都很視乎區內需求而定。單車就像私家車,卻比較環保且不需執照。一小時內單車已經可以把人帶到10至15公里遠的地方,這個距離其實可以去到很多很遠的地方。以香港島為例,若從銅鑼灣到中環,距離只有4.1公里,估計約20至30分鐘,不會比巴士或鐵路的慢。再者,單車沒有交通擠塞的問題,也不會排放很多溫室氣體及其他污染物。

有些人可能會說,要在高度發展的城市如香港引入單車相關配套是沒可能的。與其說有沒有可能,我會說存在一些必須面對的「挑戰」,而不是不能實現的「阻礙」。相信在歐洲和東京等已經具備完善單車配套的城市,當初在鼓勵單車友善文化和改善設計時,都不是容易的事。但是設計思考和集合公民的智慧,相信讓一些看似引致不可能的問題,可以有一天迎刃而解!在香港,其實新市鎮一早有單車徑,但是已發展的城市,有部分路段是寬闊且人流不多,這些路段部分空間是否可以優先作為提供單車線之用?很多單車使用者所建議的海濱也是一個不錯的想法。不是不可能,而是本來可以做多少,以及是否有決心嘗試解決餘下的難題。說不可能是一個藉口,是最差的拖延表現,只會讓問題更差。能有決心,即使最終不能完滿解決,但至少能做到100分中的1分!

LifeAlvin C