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Newly-emerged modes of transport
2015-12-15

Following is a question by the Hon Charles Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (December 9):

Question:

Some members of the technology industry have relayed to me that some newly-emerged and greener modes of transport (e.g. mini-motor cycles, motor-driven bicycles, motor-driven skateboards and electric unicycles) (newly-emerged modes of transport) have become increasingly popular in recent years, and quite a number of cities allow such modes of transport to be legally ridden on their roads.  However, under Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap 374), all vehicles must be registered with and licensed by the Transport Department before they may be ridden on roads.  Certain types of such newly-emerged modes of transport do not fall within any one of the classes of vehicles specified in Schedule 1 to Cap 374 and therefore cannot be registered and licensed, and other types of newly-emerged modes of transport which can be classified as motor cycle or motor tricycle cannot be registered and licensed either, as they fail to meet the requirements in relation to horsepower, lighting, braking and warning devices, etc. specified in the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374 sub. leg. A).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has assessed the public demand for the use of newly-emerged modes of transport; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether it will study the roles that the newly-emerged modes of transport can take and their positioning within the transport system of Hong Kong, in particular their transport efficiency in serving as short-haul feeder transport; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether it will study the implementation of a trial scheme to allow newly-emerged modes of transport to be ridden on designated roads (including roads where vehicular traffic is prohibited and pavements), so as to assess the feasibility of formally allowing such modes of transport to be ridden on roads and introducing a relevant regulatory regime; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) given that the newly-emerged modes of transport had not come into existence when Cap 374 was enacted, whether the authorities will consider (i) categorising certain types of newly-emerged modes of transport as new classes of vehicles under Schedule 1 to Cap 374, and (ii) incorporating into Cap 374 sub. leg. A the relevant requirements that are applicable to new classes of vehicles, so that such newly-emerged modes of transport may be ridden legally on roads after being registered and licensed; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

My consolidated reply to the various parts of the Hon Charles Mok’s question is as follows:

According to the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap 374) (the Ordinance), “motor vehicle” means any mechanically propelled “vehicle” whereas “vehicle” generally means any vehicle, whether or not mechanically propelled, which is constructed or adapted for use on roads.  As mobility devices have different structures and functions, some of them may fall within the definition of “motor vehicle” under the Ordinance while some may not.  According to the information possessed by the Transport Department (TD), the mobility devices which can be purchased in the market currently, including mini-motor cycles, electric bicycles, electric scooters and electric unicycles, etc. are all mechanically propelled and thus belong to “motor vehicles”.

According to TD’s professional assessment, the mobility devices which can be purchased in the market currently are not suitable to share road spaces with ordinary vehicles, no matter from the road safety perspective or from the smooth traffic angle.  In addition, Hong Kong is small and densely populated.  Many pavements are rather narrow with lots of street facilities and various activities taking place.  Using mobility devices on pavements will pose high risks to the users and other pedestrians and therefore they are also not suitable for use on pavements.  In respect of persons using mobility devices illegally, law enforcement officers can take enforcement action pursuant to the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap 228) depending on the circumstances.  To our understanding, the police departments in London and New York have also recently made it clear to the public that using electric scooters on carriageways and pavements is illegal.

There may be a need to set up designated lanes for mobility devices which are separated from vehicles and pedestrians if mobility devices are to be used without posing high risk to other road users (including the pedestrians) and obstructing the vehicular and pedestrian flow.  As the carriageways and pavements currently in Hong Kong are not spacious enough for setting up such designated lanes, the TD considers that such devices should not be registered and licensed as a tool for transportation, nor the legislation should be amended to facilitate the registration and licensing of such mobility devices for use on roads.  The Government will strengthen the publicity work to inform the public that it is an offence to use unregistered and unlicensed mobility devices on carriageways, or to use mobility devices on pavements, causing danger to the public.  The TD will also continue to closely monitor the emergence of mobility devices in the market.

Depending on the circumstances, the existing mobility devices may be used inside individual private properties, recreational or sports venues or other non-public places, in compliance with the rules and requirements on the use imposed by those in-charge of the venue.

Ends/Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Issued at HKT 13:30

Office Of Hon. Charles Mok, Legislative Councillor (IT)