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LCQ22: Automated bicycle rental service and bicycle parking spaces
     Following is a question by the Hon Alice Mak and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (October 25):


     The automated bicycle rental service named bicycle-sharing service has become increasingly popular in Hong Kong.  It has been reported that a number of new operators have launched such service in the New Territories in recent months.  However, some members of the public have relayed that shared bicycles have taken up a large number of public bicycle parking spaces, and that quite a number of shared bicycles are indiscriminately parked in public places, causing inconvenience to pedestrians and other bicycle users.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the Transport Department, the Lands Department and the Home Affairs Department have regular meetings with operators of bicycle-sharing service to convey to them the views and concerns of members of the local communities; if so, of the number of meetings held since the introduction of such service by the operators concerned and the details thereof, as well as the operators' responses to such views and concerns;

(2) given that at the meeting of this Council on June 21 this year, the Secretary for Transport and Housing indicated that the authorities had in June this year met with an operator who had undertaken to follow up on relevant issues, but the authorities subsequently found the progress of the follow-up work unsatisfactory, whether the authorities will consider tightening up the regulation of such service;

(3) of the number of operations conducted by the authorities in the past 12 months to clear illegally parked bicycles in the New Territories and the total number of bicycles confiscated and, among them, the number of those which were shared bicycles; given that the problem of illegal parking of shared bicycles in the New Territories has become increasingly serious, whether the authorities will step up law enforcement actions in that region;

(4) with a number of operators of bicycle-sharing service having commenced operation, whether the authorities have assessed if the existing and planned provision of bicycle parking spaces in the New Territories are sufficient to meet the demand in the coming three years; whether the authorities will study the provision of designated parking areas for shared bicycles in order to mitigate the problem of shared bicycles occupying public bicycle parking spaces, and whether the authorities will set a timetable for introducing new bicycle rack designs such as "double-deck parking system" and "1-up-1-down parking rack" in the New Territories; and

(5) whether the authorities will conduct a study on the development of bicycle-sharing service in Hong Kong, including the role that bicycle-sharing service should assume in the Government's bicycle-friendly policy, the ancillary facilities and government support required for the development of bicycle-sharing service, and ways to reduce the impact of shared bicycles on pedestrians and other bicycle users?



     My reply to the various parts of Hon Alice Mak's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) Since mid-April this year, several private operators have launched automated bicycle rental services 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.  There is no fundamental difference in the nature of this business from that of conventional bicycle rental businesses, only that the operators adopt a different mode of operation.

     After an individual operator launched its automated bicycle rental service, there were concerns in certain districts on such bicycles occupying public bicycle parking spaces and using public resources for commercial activities.  Relevant government departments (Note 1) met with the operator in June, July and September, to convey the views of the community and the District Councils on its operations.  The departments also reiterated the need for automated bicycle rental service to abide by relevant regulations in relation to the parking or placing of bicycles, including the Road Traffic (Parking) Regulations, Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance and Summary Offences Ordinance (Note 2).  The departments also stressed that the Government would pay close attention to the impacts of such bicycle rental activities on the community, and would carry out law enforcement actions as necessary.

     At the aforesaid meetings, the operator agreed to implement improvement measures, including displaying conspicuously a telephone hotline on its bicycles so that the public can make complaints about illegal parking immediately and its staff can clear the illegally parked bicycles as soon as possible.  Other measures include updating its smartphone application to display the locations of the public bicycle parking spaces and introducing a concession scheme to encourage the users of rental bicycles to park the bicycles properly.  We notice that individual operators have progressively introduced similar initiatives in order to attenuate the problem of illegal bicycle parking.  However, there is still room for improvement for the operators to follow up on illegally parked bicycles.  The Government will continue to closely monitor the operation of the bicycle rental operators in various districts.

(3) From October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017, relevant departments have conducted a total of 458 joint clearance operations against illegally parked bicycles.  Around 11 000 bicycles have been removed, among which 146 were rental bicycles for "bicycle-sharing".  Where warranted, the concerned District Offices would co-ordinate the joint operations of relevant departments, such as the Lands Department, the Transport Department (TD), the Police and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to clear the black-spots of illegally parked bicycles and misplaced articles.  So far, these joint clearance operations have some deterrent effects, and the departments will continue to clear illegally parked bicycles having regard to actual circumstances.

(4) As at the end of September this year, there are some 58 000 public bicycle parking spaces across the territory.  The TD reviews the demand for such spaces in various districts from time to time.  Depending on the situations of individual districts, additional bicycle parking spaces will be provided as far as practicable.

     Earlier on, the TD engaged a consultancy to explore ways to improve the cycle tracks and cycling facilities in nine new towns.  The consultant identified some 900 locations for proposed improvement.  It is expected that, upon the completion of these 900 improvement works, about 7 000 additional bicycle parking spaces will be provided, of which around 1 000 are expected to be available for public use by the end of 2018.  For the remaining parking spaces, the TD is commissioning the Highways Department to undertake works for the project, including planning, design and construction.  The implementation schedule has yet to be confirmed.  The TD has already updated the Transport Planning and Design Manual by including new bicycle rack designs such as "double-deck parking system" and "1-up-1-down parking rack" as standard designs.

     Because of multiple demands on limited land resources, to identify suitable and adequate land for increasing the number of bicycle parking spaces is sometimes easier said than done.  In providing bicycle parking spaces for public use in the New Territories, the TD has started to adopt new bicycle rack design which will maximise the use of land and add more bicycle parking spaces.  As automated bicycle rental service is a business activity, it is up to the private operators to find suitable sites for parking the bicycles legally.  If these operators would like to lease government land for parking bicycles, they could contact the government departments concerned.

(5) The Government's transport policy is based on public transport and aims to reduce reliance on private cars.  At the same time, the Government endeavours to foster a "bicycle-friendly" environment in new towns and new development areas; promote cycling as a green mode for short-distance commuting where road safety permits and practicable; promote walking and cycling as "first mile" and "last mile" connection between public transport stations and living places or offices, thereby minimising the need for mechanised transport and reducing vehicle emissions.  The Government will closely monitor and follow up on the operation of 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 considering 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.

Note 1: The Transport Department, the Police and District Offices have attended all the meetings, whereas the Lands Department joined the meetings in July and September.

Note 2: Pursuant to the Road Traffic (Parking) Regulations, no person shall park a vehicle (including 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.  The Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance prohibits unlawful occupation of unleased land.  The Summary Offences Ordinance prohibits people from leaving any article that may obstruct, inconvenience or endanger any person or vehicle.
Ends/Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:20
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