Q1. In Chinese, the word “road” is frequently called “馬路”, literally “horse way”, which was so defined when horses or carriages were the major means of transportation. Nowadays, can we still ride horses on roads?
The Chinese term “馬路” (transliterated “horse way”) has almost completely disappeared in Hong Kong statutes. There are only 2 references to the Chinese term. Both appear in the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations (Cap. 374G); both are called “road” in the English version; and both are used in the context of pedestrians crossing the “road”.
But Hong Kong citizens have all along been using the term “馬路” (transliterated “horse way”) to describe the road in their daily language. It is therefore interesting to ponder upon whether riding horses on a road is permitted.
As a matter of fact, there is no law which prohibits riding of horse on the road. There are actually a few statues which suggest that it is not an offence to ride a horse on the road:
- Section 28(3) of the Summary Offences Ordinance ( 228) stipulates: “Any person who is found drunk while in charge of any vehicle (other than a motor vehicle) or of any horse, in any public road or street shall be liable to a fine at level 1 or to imprisonment for 2 months.” That seems to suggest that you can be in charge of any vehicle or horse on a road as long as you are not drunk.
- At certain areas where equestrian centres or riding schools are located, you may see a triangular traffic sign displaying a running horse.
According to Schedule 1 of the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations (Cap. 374G), “This sign indicates that motorists are approaching a length of road on which they are likely to encounter horses.” That again seems to suggest that horse riding is allowed on the road.
The Road Users’ Code published by the Transport Department, though not representing the law, also contains passages which indicate that horse riding on the road is allowed. For example:
- “Riding a horse on roads with traffic should be avoided. However, if you have to ride a horse on the road, make sure you can control it in traffic.”
- “When riding, keep to the left of the road. If you are leading a horse, on foot or while riding another, you should also keep to the left and keep the led animal on your left.”
- “If you are riding a horse, you should wear a hard hat and lightcoloured, reflective or fluorescent clothing.”
In view of the above, it is believed that it is not an offence for someone to ride a horse on the road.