Hong Kong’s Transport Department is considering requiring cyclists to wear helmets, citing an increase in traffic accidents involving bicycles.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan. File photo: GovHK.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan said the Transport Department was “conducting a comprehensive review” on whether Hong Kong should mandate the wearing of bicycle helmets for cyclists.

The city saw 2,994 accidents involving bicycles last year, accounting for almost 17 per cent of all road accidents. The number of accidents is an almost 60 per cent increase compared to 2017, when around 1,900 bike accidents were recorded.

See also: ‘Ghost bikes’ commemorate cyclists killed on Hong Kong’s roads

Eight cyclists were killed in accidents last year, according to the Transport Department.

Chan said the government was taking into account whether a helmet requirement should apply to all locations, or only designated places, as well as the practices adopted in other countries.

A cycling track in Hong Kong. Photo: Bill Chan, via Flickr.

Authorities conducted a similar review in 2011, but concluded that mandating cyclists to wear helmets was not a “common international practice” and that it would be more “practicable” to encourage cyclists to do so voluntarily.

Low ‘bicycle friendliness’

A 2022 global survey of cities’ “bicycle friendliness” ranked Hong Kong 84th on a list of 90 places, putting it well below mainland Chinese cities including Hangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, which appeared at 5, 38 and 51 on the list, respectively.

The study looked at factors including cycling infrastructure, safety and the percentage of bicycle use among the population.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

A Legislative Council paper published last year said that Hong Kong had “reportedly been outshone by its global peers in terms of bicycle-friendliness.”

In recent years, the government has invested in more cycling-related infrastructure, with a 60-kilometre cycling track connecting Tuen Mun and Ma On Shan opening in 2020.

James Ockenden, an activist concerned with sustainability and transport issues in Hong Kong, however, told HKFP in May that infrastructure was not key to making the city more bicycle friendly. Rather, he said a change to Hong Kong’s “vehicle-first mentality” – of always “putting cars first” – would make the streets safer for cyclists.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.