LCQ15: Automated bicycle rental service and proposed cycle track in Kai Tak Development


Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (February 7):

Question:

     It has been reported that within less than a year since bike-sharing rental service was introduced into Hong Kong, six service operators have commenced operation in the market, providing a total of 15 000 bicycles. Several members of the Kwun Tong District Council and the Wong Tai Sin District Council have relayed that with the growing popularity of shared bicycles, the problem of illegal parking of bicycles has spread to Kowloon East. As there is a lack of bicycle parking spaces in public housing estates in the urban areas, a large number of shared bicycles have been illegally parked and abandoned in a number of housing estates, causing obstruction to the residents there.

They have also pointed out that there are loopholes in the law enforcement approach taken and the legislation invoked by the government departments concerned against illegal parking of bicycles (those departments only post on the illegally parked bicycles statutory notices of clearance and confiscation of such bicycles, and as long as the bicycle owners remove the statutory notices or move the bicycles a bit away, the departments are unable to take any further law enforcement actions), resulting in a lack of efficiency in their law enforcement efforts. Moreover, they have criticised that the various government departments, in handling problems related to shared bicycles, have their responsibilities unclearly delineated and shift their responsibilities to one another from time to time, thus aggravating the problem of "the city being surrounded by bicycles" in various districts. On the other hand, as quite a number of members of the public ride bicycles on narrow pavements in urban areas, pedestrians have to dodge these bicycles, which is very dangerous and endangers pedestrian safety.

In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of (i) the aforesaid statutory notices issued and (ii) the shared bicycles confiscated, by the authorities in the 18 District Council districts across the territory in the past six months (set out in a table); 

(2) as quite a number of members of the public have criticised that the authorities' law enforcement efforts are ineffective, whether the authorities will, in response to public criticism, review the existing policies afresh and formulate performance indicators to ensure effective law enforcement against illegal parking of bicycles;

(3) whether it has considered amending the policy on law enforcement against illegal parking of bicycles, and considered enacting regulations that specially address illegal parking of shared bicycles and impose penalties on the service operators concerned, so as to tackle the problem of illegal parking of bicycles more effectively; 

(4) whether it has assessed (i) the reasons why quite a number of members of the public ride bicycles on pavements and (ii) if the authorities' publicity and education efforts in this respect are adequate; if it has assessed, of the details; if it has not assessed, whether it will do so immediately and explore improvement measures;

(5) in view of the sharp increase in the number of shared bicycles in Kwun Tong and Wong Tai Sin districts, whether the authorities have plans to implement the provision of an additional cycle track along the Kwun Tong Promenade and extend such cycle track to the areas near Cha Kwo Ling and Lei Yue Mun; if so, of the details; whether the Government will provide additional cycle tracks at other places in Kowloon East; and

(6) of the government departments to which members of the public may lodge complaints about illegal parking of shared bicycles; whether the authorities will, in view of the surge in the number of complaints about shared bicycles in various districts, set up a complaint hotline to centrally handle such complaints?

Reply:

President,

     My reply to the various parts of the Hon Paul Tse's question is as follows.

     (1) to (3) Since April 2017, some private operators have launched automated bicycle rental service in Hong Kong in the name of "bicycle-sharing", whereby customers may rent and return bicycles anywhere on a self-service basis through smartphone applications. In terms of business nature, there is no fundamental difference between the automated and conventional bicycle rental services, only that the operators adopt different modes of operation.

     Pursuant to the Road Traffic (Parking) Regulations (Cap. 374C), no person shall park a vehicle (including a bicycle) in non-designated parking places; nor shall he or she park a vehicle in a parking place for a continuous period of more than 24 hours.

In addition, the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 28) prohibits unlawful occupation of unleased Government land, whereas the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228) prohibits people from leaving any article that may obstruct, inconvenience or endanger any person or vehicle.

     In accordance with the above laws, operators and users should not park their automated rental bicycles at inappropriate locations. The Government will follow the established practice in handling illegal parking of bicycles, be they conventional non-automated rental, automated rental, or privately-owned ones.

     The Government has all along been concerned about the illegal parking of bicycles and prolonged occupation of public bicycle parking spaces by bicycles (including abandoned ones) and other articles.

Departments will arrange clearance operations according to their respective purviews. The Transport Department (TD) is responsible for clearing bicycles illegally parked at covered public transport interchanges; the District Lands Offices (DLOs) concerned are in charge of clearing bicycles illegally occupying unleased Government land; and the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) is tasked to remove bicycles which may pose immediate danger to road users. The time used by departments in handling illegal parking of bicycles will vary having regard to the actual circumstances.

     To address the problem of illegal parking of bicycles more effectively, the District Offices (DOs) concerned would coordinate, where appropriate, joint operations with such departments as the DLOs concerned, the TD, the HKPF and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department so as to clear the black spots of illegally parked bicycles or misplaced articles.

     To more vigorously combat illegal bicycle parking, relevant government departments have been joining forces to implement a trial scheme at Sheung Shui MTR Station in North District since January 2017.

During the operations, illegally parked bicycles causing obstruction were removed without notice pursuant to sections 4A and 32(1) of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228). The government departments concerned are currently reviewing the effectiveness of the scheme, and will consider whether it is appropriate to extend the scheme to other districts upon the completion of the review.

     From July to December 2017, a total of nearly 28 700 notices on removal of illegally parked bicycles were issued, and a total of 5 876 illegally parked bicycles, of which about 300 were automated rental bicycles, were removed.

Please refer to the Annex for details.

     Apart from initiating law enforcement actions, the Government also promotes operators to exercise self-discipline, and has been proactively communicating with individual operators. In this connection, relevant government departments (Note) arranged to meet with individual operator in June, July and September 2017. In addition to conveying the views of the local community and the District Councils (DCs), the government departments also reiterated the need for automated bicycle rental service operations to abide by the relevant laws above, and stressed that the departments would pay close attention to the impact of the operator's bicycle rental activities on the community, and would step up law enforcement actions as necessary.

     At the aforesaid meetings, the operator agreed to progressively implement improvement measures. These include displaying conspicuously a telephone hotline on its bicycles so that the public could lodge complaints about illegal parking immediately and its staff could remove the illegally parked bicycles as soon as possible, updating the operator's smartphone applications to display the locations of public bicycle parking spaces, and introducing a concession scheme to encourage bicycle users to park the bicycles properly.

We have noticed that individual operator has started to reduce its scale of operation since mid-November 2017 by recalling around 2 000 to 3 000 automated rental bicycles.

     On the other hand, individual operators launched their automated bicycle rental services in the urban areas in late 2017. The TD has immediately contacted the operators and expressly conveyed to them that given the heavy traffic, narrow and crowded roads, as well as frequent on-street loading and unloading activities in the urban areas, the Government does not encourage the public to use bicycles as a mode of commuting in the urban areas due to road safety considerations. Coupled with the fact there are no comprehensive cycle tracks and on-street cycle parking spaces, the TD does not support the operators to promote automated bicycle rental services in the urban areas.

We understand that the operators are progressively recalling some of the rental bicycles placed in the urban areas.

     The TD is following up with the operators on their operation in various districts, particularly the parking arrangements of bicycles in public areas. The Government will continue to closely monitor the operation of automated bicycle rental services in various districts and study the regulatory measures on "bicycle-sharing" in other cities, in particular the parking arrangements for shared bicycles in public places. We do not preclude further regulating "bicycle-sharing" if necessary, but will need to ensure that the regulatory regime is pragmatic and viable and will not violate the principle of fair competition.

(4) The TD and the Police have all along collaborated with the Road Safety Council in organising publicity and educational activities to heighten safety awareness among the public when cycling, and remind cyclists to adhere to the relevant laws, including prohibition of cycling on footpaths. For instance, the Road Safety Council has produced Announcements in the Public Interest on television and radio, a set of educational videos entitled "Safe Cycling: Rules and Tips", the Road Safety Bulletin promotional publication, as well as booklets on safe cycling.

Furthermore, the TD has launched a one-stop Cycling Information Centre website to provide to the public information on cycling, including the relevant laws and safety tips.

     Having regard to the accident trend and the improper behaviour commonly found among road users, we will continue to devise suitable road safety publicity and educational campaigns so as to further enhance the awareness of road safety among cyclists.

(5) The Government is considering the construction of a cycle track of about 13 km in length in the Kai Tak Development (KTD). The proposed cycle track will mostly be located in the open space of the KTD, forming part of the parks and promenade. The proposed cycle track alignment will link up a number of attractions in the KTD, such as the Kwun Tong Promenade.  Moreover, upon the completion of the promenade inside Kwun Tong Action Area and the bridge across the mouth of Tsui Ping River, the cycle track may be further extended to the harbourfront at Cha Kwo Ling. In September to October 2017, the Civil Engineering and Development Department in conjunction with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department consulted, and obtained general support from, the Kowloon City DC, Wong Tai Sin DC, Kwun Tong DC, the Task Force on Kai Tak Harbourfront Development and related cycling organisations on the proposed alignment of the cycle track etc.

Relevant government departments will consider how to follow up with the proposal.

(6) If the public have any complaints or enquiries concerning illegal parking of bicycles, they may call the government hotline 1823. Upon receipt of complaints or enquiries, 1823 will refer them to appropriate government departments for follow-up. Apart from telephone calls, the public can also access 1823 services through mobile application, electronic form, email, fax, short message service and post.

     Furthermore, the TD have asked automated rental bicycle operators to display their service hotlines on the bicycles so that the operators may receive and follow up on the matters raised by the public promptly. As such, the public may also report any illegal parking of bicycles directly to the operators for follow-up action.

Note: The TD, HKPF and DOs attended all the meetings, while the Lands Department attended the meetings in July and September.



Published on: 2018-02-07

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