Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Police Escorted Protest Ride?

Sunday was kind of a Grand Finale of bicycle riding in Hong Kong for me.  After my long morning road ride, I went with Brian and Eric, in the afternoon, to attend a protest ride.  It was not a mash it up problematic event.  I say that because to me, the word 'protest' conjures up those kinds of visions.  It was organized by a local rider by way of facebook, and as you can see, many people joined in on it.  The main objective was to meet a few km away from their destination, which was a government building in Mong Kok, Kowloon, where they would deliver a letter requesting more concern for cyclists on the roads in Hong Kong.  A few speeches were made, and then we all dispersed in a very well-mannered way.  There were many different types of riders there, but one group consisted of young people who are into the growing fixie scene here.  Brian, who invited me along to this earlier last week, in fact is the one who brought that scene here to Hong Kong a few years ago.  He is yet another person I contacted before coming here, and I found him through his website, flwrdr.  Flwrdr (or Flowrider), is basically his philosophy on life and bicycling summed up into one word.  On a bike you have to 'flow' with traffic and what is around you, "not going too fast or too slow."  In life you have to do the same thing he says.  

And we had to find our own way to flow to the event!  We had some difficulty finding the actual meeting spot where the ride was to begin.  When we did find it, everyone was already gone.  So, we made our own way, part of which included riding on one of the major highways here.  It was accidental that we had to do that, but it was the only way.  There are many ways in which Hong Kong is not bicycle friendly, and there are some major infrastructure issues.  I suppose all of the police were too busy escorting the group, that it helped to keep us from being spotted out there!  

But, we did make it to the end gathering to see the hand-off of the letter, and to hear some of the speeches.  After that was finished it was time to go.  There was no time to dilly dally.  We had to clear the area immediately.  Which is not a problem, but I was left with a feeling that Hong Kong officials were willing to go to the effort of providing the escort and accept the letter to keep the peace, but maybe aren't really taking the whole thing seriously.  I'm not sure that the letter was tacked to the cork board and marked high priority when they went back into the building.  Hong Kong does give consideration to many aspects of cycling, for sport, leisure, and they are building more cycle tracks.  However, using a bicycle for real transport, not just short distance deliveries from one shop to the next, is not considered.  The prevailing mindset is that bikes do not belong on the road.  Nor do they belong on the sidewalks.  If you need to get somewhere, use the train or buses or taxi or your own car.  If you want to ride a bike, go to the cycle track or the park or the track.  

Due to the efforts of events like this though, and Brian, and Martin of the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, and all of those who participate, bicycling as a way to get from point A to point B in Hong Kong is becoming more recognized as a viable option.  And just as it is anywhere else, it is the people who will make the change.  Some of us are out there getting to where we need to go on our bikes in  Hong Kong, braving the taxis and buses, enjoying the little bit of fresh air that wafts our way every now and then, getting some good exercise and benefitting from the rejuvenation that comes from that.  

No comments: