PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 12:00am

Q Should minibuses be fitted with speed alarms?

Forget the bells and install a whistle blower. Speed alarms are not useful in controlling the speed of minibuses. They will be switched off and do not provide evidence necessary for legal proceedings. Defendants will simply claim that the bell heard before the crash was someone's phone.

Some 25 years ago, Europe needed to control the speed of cross-boundary truck drivers and made tachometers recording the speed and time compulsory.

The first models marked the speed on 24-hour discs. New models, which record digitally, are smaller and cheaper. With such devices installed, any driver unable to provide a tachometer readout is fined heavily. And when an accident does occur, the recorded travel speed history against the known route of the minibus will tell the truth. A simple whistle, without the bells, will keep our minibuses in check.

Paul Zimmerman, Mid-Levels

Q Should passengers be banned from bargaining over taxi fares?

Yes they should. This would be fairer to other drivers and passengers. I understand Hong Kong people like to bargain a lot. But if the law does not change, the problem will worsen. Passengers will want to negotiate a fare even for a short journey.

We cannot negotiate fares when taking public transport, then why should people bargain over taxi fares? If people think fares are too high, they'd better travel by bus or MTR.

According to your article, the taxi drivers may decide to accept a city-wide cut. If this is really applied, it will be a win-win situation. There would be no more illegal discounting. Taxi drivers would not have to offer discounts and passengers would not have to bargain.

Christina Chan, Prince Edward

Q Should smoking be banned in restaurants and bars?

In reply to your correspondent Lavinia Chang of South Bay, the answer is a resounding yes - smokers do stop travelling and eating out. I have not been back to the US since the last Japan Airlines smoking flight. I used to go to Tokyo overnight just to take their smoking flight to New York. Now I just don't go.

I have curtailed all travel to just a few short destinations except when absolutely necessary. Now that I can afford to travel frequently, I find the process extremely unpleasant. As to eating, I have never eaten in a non-smoking establishment.

When in Singapore or other non-smoking cities, I stay in a hotel with a kitchenette and buy food at the supermarket. If dining out is not a pleasure, I just eat at home. As to drinking, well who would go to a bar if it weren't entertaining, relaxing and fun? We can always entertain at home.

Shirley Miller, The Peak

I wish to publicly compliment Cafe de Coral for its courage and vision in totally banning smoking at its outlets. I do not see any decline in business but I notice a lot more smiling patrons. It is hypocrisy for certain Liberal legislators to vote against a mandatory ban on smoking in public places. They should care more about the health of the second-hand smokers than the pockets of the operators.

Helen Ma, Mid-Levels

It was a refreshing change to read the common-sense views of smoker George Woo yesterday.

Many smokers seem concerned only with the inconvenience a smoking ban would cause them and give little or no thought to non-smokers who may be involuntarily affected by the habits of a minority.

Mr Woo's decency and consideration for others should be applauded. If only the powers that be shared such concerns.

Jon Yau, Tai Po

On other matters ...

It is interesting to read the government plans for the development of South Lantau. If this area is going to be developed into a recreation and tourist area, why have the responsible officials not included plans to improve the sea water quality?

Last month, a group of regular surfers at Tong Fuk beach were appalled by the sticky, smelly sludge that covered their bodies daily for about two weeks. It was reported in a letter written to the Environmental Protection Department.

After one month, the reply came that during the specified time 'there was no reported red tide in Tong Fuk'. The bacteriological water quality of Tong Fuk Beach was rated Grade 1. I'm afraid that the government is deluding itself if it thinks its findings are scientifically accurate. Going to the beach where the water quality is bad is like eating Peking duck without the pancakes.

Jane Dykes, Lantau

I have been impressed with the quality and variety of films shown during the MAX! German-language film festival.

I would single out the biographical Jagged Harmonies about Bach in 1747, Free Radicals, which challenges contemporary moralities, and the deeply moving documentary of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, one of the most influential psychotherapists of the 20th century, Facing Death.

I think these are about as good as filmmaking gets. When we are solemnly preoccupied with power politics, inequities and pollution, I think it is essential to have such reminders of universal themes. We need time to transcend in small ways our geographic and cultural myopias.

The usual cinematic menu of exclusively Hollywood, Canto-pop and action-revenge-horror films presents an inferior entertainment standard to what we deserve in a city of 6.7 million. When international artistic expression thrives in Hong Kong, we can begin to compare our mindfulness with that of people of cities such as London, New York and Paris.

Shouldn't a city be judged by more than gross domestic product and the number of Rolls-Royces? One thing Hong Kong can do to remain ahead of Beijing and Shanghai in terms of remaining forward-thinking is to encourage such quality film festivals as MAX!

Film has more potential than any other medium to promote understanding and informed analysis. The Swiss, Austrian and German consulates are to be congratulated for enriching our cultural diet.

Bernard D. Anderson, Stanley

I have previously complained through your letters column about the serious pollution caused by tourist buses waiting on Beach Road. It seems that nothing has been done by our Environmental Protection Department to address this problem.

Now the weather has turned considerably cooler, is there any need for waiting buses to keep the air-conditioning running?

Since the Legco last week voted in favour of a motion supporting the ban on smoking in offices, shops and restaurants and the whole world is moving one step forward towards the Kyoto Protocol, I think it is high time the environmental department did something for the residents of Repulse Bay and South Bay.

Vanessa Hui, South Bay