I forget what age I learnt to balance and ride a bicycle properly, but what I do remember is the powerful sense of freedom that it gave when I was finally able to travel and explore places under my own power, to jump curbs and stairs at will (with a few scraped elbows and knees in between), and to feel the wind in my hair.
Like most kids at the time, I learned to ride on a wobbly BMX; then progressed onto “big bikes” with a mountain bike and acquiring a taste for mud, dirt, and the great outdoors; after mountain biking came the “roadie years” of sweating, training, and racing; and now, being a little older (but not necessarily wiser), cycling means commuting to work and the occasional leisure ride on the weekends. But throughout all the years and without fail, each time I climb onto the saddle, it brings a smile to my face no matter how bad of a mood I am in – because you know what? Riding a bicycle is fun!
Cycling is many things to many people – to the competitive cyclist it’s a sport; to the leisure cyclist it’s a healthy weekend activity; to the touring cyclist it’s a way to explore and discover new places; to the commuter it’s a sustainable way to get from A to B.
And, to me, that’s what cycling is about: freedom. The freedom to travel, the freedom to explore, the freedom of choice. And just so it happens that cycling has a long list of side benefits as well – health benefits, improved air quality, less traffic congestion because of fewer vehicles on the road, the list goes on. At a time when we’re facing serious environmental challenges, the sustainable aspect of cycling as transport makes even more sense than ever before.
Environmentally speaking, Hong Kong is in the dark ages – an outdated air pollution index, a dubious recycling program, a car-centric society and economy, a well-meaning but powerless Environmental Protection Department, etc. There needs to be a fundamental change in the Government’s attitude and thinking to tackle these issues head-on.
Hence the importance of Lead8’s project for a sustainable urban network like HarbourLoop – while the rest of the world is acknowledging the benefits of cycling and are rushing to embracing it, Hong Kong is refusing to accept and acknowledge cycling as a form of transportation and still classifies it merely as a “leisure activity”, one that is best kept off the roads and only done at weekends. Hopefully the project can help the Government see the light and seriously reconsider its position on cycling.
However, while the environmental aspect is absolutely crucial to ensure that we have a future, I feel that it’s equally important to let cycling bring freedom and fun back into our lives – because after all, what’s life without some fun?
Philip Heung, Chairman, Green Urban Mobility