To keep themselves and their bikes in good condition, the junior cyclists do not cycle much in their leisure time, especially during summer when lots of races take place. “Because if you cycle for leisure, then what happens if you crash?” says Yip. “It can affect your next race.”
For these competitive child cyclists, cycling is a test of skill and character but there is another group of people for whom cycling is a form of transportation and green living. They are the city’s cycling commuters.
“Cycling is transportation,” says Ruth Pifer. “It is the best choice of transportation.”
Ruth and her husband Tony Pifer lived in Texas before moving to Hong Kong. At first, they just cycled for recreation. “When our sons were born, we wanted to have an outdoor recreational activity which family members could enjoy equally,” says Ruth. It was her husband who first thought of using his bicycle for practical purposes. He bought some panniers for his bike and pedalled off to the shopping centre. “That’s how everything got started,” says Ruth.
Before moving to Hong Kong a year ago, the Pifers agreed that city living would not stop them cycling. They brought their bikes with them, and they even chose a flat in Ma On Shan because it is on the bike path.
For Ruth Pifer, commuting on bikes saves money and is good for the environment. Her husband, on the other hand, enjoys cycling because it allows him to stay away from public transportation. “To get to different places, we would probably be in really packed buses, or things might get really irritating after a while, switching trains, switching from a train to a bus, and going back to a train…It is not really wonderful,” Tony Pifer explains.
Tony is an art teacher in an elementary school, and he cycles 15 minutes to work every day. He says it is “spiritually invigorating” when he commutes by bike. “Actually I love going to work every day on my bike,” he says.“It is quiet, and I have the music on. I am moving my body. I am not reading any signs. I am not looking at other people. I am not getting distracted. And I get to work and I am ready. I just love that.”
He even cycles on rainy days. All he does is wrap a rubbish bag around his brief case. “I may be quite wet when I get to school but after an hour of air-conditioning I am dry…It is not a problem.”
It is not easy to maintain such a lifestyle. Ruth Pifer says that parking is the biggest problem. “There are a bazillion million million bikes locked up and no one ever rides them,” she says. “They are rusty, and that leaves us no places to put our bikes that we really do use. That is very, very frustrating.” So they often have to lock their bikes illegally, she adds.
Another problem with cycling to work is that it takes longer. Ruth gave up after she began a job as a teacher at a school in Repulse Bay. When asked how long it would take to get there by bike, she exclaims, “Holy Cow!” The entire family looks puzzled and starts to calculate. “It will take me at least four hours!” she screams.