Macau Matters | Improving personal mobility

Richard Whitfield

When I last visited Paris several years ago, the racks of bicycles available for rental scattered around the city were quite noticeable, as were the significant numbers of people renting the bicycles. I was also very jealous when I saw a group of 10+ tourists riding through a park on Segways – 2-wheeled electric riding platforms – with their guide.

I understand that nowadays 50+ Chinese cities have bicycle sharing schemes operating increasingly successfully. Most of these systems are now “dockless” – you use a GPS based smartphone App to find and rent “close by” bicycles and renters just leave the bicycles on the road-side at the end of their ride.

It has also been very interesting to see the steadily increasing numbers of people riding around on bicycles in Macau and Hong Kong, and I love the MAMIL acronym for Middle-Aged Men In Lycra that goes with the trend. I have several local friends who have spent more to buy their bicycles than I spent on my last car, and I can say the same thing about both of my sisters in Australia.

An Economist article pointed out that shared bicycles have become a feature of street life in over 500 cities in 50 countries around the world. They also estimated that there are over 350,000 shared bicycles in China, but my guess is that there is less than 100 bicycles for rent in Macau, and I have only ever seen one Segway here, at the CEM power station in Coloane.

A system where bicycles can be rented from several nearby locations and dropped off at any other location, and where renting just involves clicking a smartphone App can be a very convenient form of public transport, for tourists and locals alike. The same could also be true for fleets of Segways.

There are a few “Mom and Pop” bicycle rental shops in Taipa and Coloane but their equipment is rather ad hoc and not well kept. I understand that the local government has tried to set up a sharing system but the bicycles quickly fell into disrepair.

People may say that there is too much traffic here, but I for one, would be happy to see half the roads in Macau closed and converted to pedestrian/bicycle paths, with cars and motor scooters banned on them. Limiting vehicle speeds to under 15kph on mixed paths should be enough to ensure everybody’s safety. Macau is small enough that people do not really need to move faster to get around.

Encouraging people in Macau to walk or ride bicycles would significantly improve community health, and should also greatly reduce vehicle pollution. There is considerable medical evidence that modern sedentary lifestyles lead to major health problems and escalating health costs. It is also clear that prevention is much better than cure in these situations.

In Melbourne the bicycle sharing scheme has problems because the law requires all cyclists to wear helmets. If we limit speeds and separate cyclists and pedestrians from cars and motor scooters, I do not believe that helmets are really needed. Those who want to wear helmets can simply carry them around.

I, for one, would really like to see many of Macau’s streets pedestrianized and a good bicycle and Segway sharing system put in place – what is stopping us? Surely, we can keep up with what they are doing in China.

Categories Opinion