Hong Kong gets new trails

Action Asia - - NEWS & VIEWS -

A CON­TRO­VER­SIAL recla­ma­tion project an­nounced in Hong Kong may of­fer po­ten­tial for new hik­ing, cy­cling and moun­tain bik­ing trails on Lan­tau Is­land. The scheme aims to ad­dress fore­cast hous­ing needs by spend­ing an es­ti­mated HK$500 bil­lion to re­claim 1,700 hectares in wa­ters off the eastern end of the is­land. The largest of the ter­ri­to­ries’ 200+ is­lands, Lan­tau has long been a favourite with bik­ers and the plans (shown be­low) re­veal how recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties are to be de­vel­oped on the south of Lan­tau, to bal­ance all the ur­ban de­vel­op­ment. Pro­posed moun­tain bik­ing trails in­clude a be­gin­ner trail from Fan Lau to Tung Chung Bay; gen­tler, Mtb-friendly sub-trails split­ting from the ex­ist­ing, all-con­crete, steep Olympic Trail from Tai Ho to Mui Wo; a 10-hectare train­ing ground in Mui Wo; and con­nec­tors in and out of Chi Ma Wan. To­gether, these will cre­ate a 37km loop around the is­land. Then, as now, con­nect­ing to these trails may still be prob­lem­atic. Cur­rently, for in­stance, there’s no way for moun­tain bik­ers to legally ac­cess the South Lan­tau trails with­out rid­ing over Tung Chung Road, an in­creas­ingly busy and steeply in­clined road over the is­land’s spine. All cur­rent trails are also bi-di­rec­tional and shared with hik­ers and lo­cal vil­lagers, and aside from the Chi Ma Wan sec­tion, are mixed with con­creted sec­tions – not moun­tain bike trails by def­i­ni­tion, as says Hong Kong Moun­tain Bike As­so­ci­a­tion Direc­tor of Trail De­vel­op­ment, Nick Dover. Still, ac­cord­ing to him, it’s a fact the com­mu­nity has ac­cepted, “so long as there’s a way for peo­ple to get around the is­land with­out climb­ing steep hills or us­ing il­le­gal trails”. An­other prob­lem, says Dover, is ero­sion: “Bik­ers ride in a cer­tain way: when we see con­crete, we ride on the side, which makes a gul­ley, which ex­ac­er­bates the ero­sion,” he says. “The meth­ods that [the gov­ern­ment] is us­ing to build sus­tain­able trails are ar­chaic and rigid. The typ­i­cal ten­der­ing process and con­struc­tion meth­ods in Hong Kong aren’t suit­able for trail build­ing. It’s a lot of red tape…sub-con­trac­tors, en­gi­neer­ing. The Hong Kong gov­ern­ment is very good at build­ing bridges and high-rises but sim­ple things like trails and soil is too sim­ple for them.” Though ad­mit­tedly b oth­ered that the project is grouped with the be­he­moth ur­ban de­vel­op­ment north and east of the is­land, Dover is ex­cited about the Mui Wo Train­ing Ground – some­thing he calls: “Ground break­ing, be­cause it’ll have some­thing for ev­ery­one like kids’ tracks, flow trails and jump lines”.

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