Mong Kok pedestrian zone breathes life into our car-bound city
Unlike some world cities which make pedestrian zones an integral part of urban living, Hong Kong still gives priority to cars. Streets that are off-limit to wheels remain a rarity. That is why Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok has become such a popular spot ever since vehicles were taken off the road most of the time. Jammed with street performers, hawkers, salesmen and activities of all sorts, the street is a kaleidoscope of our street culture.
But for those who live and work nearby, the feeling can be different. Slack regulation and enforcement means they have to elbow their way through hundreds of salesmen and pull-up poster stands before reaching home or their workplace every day. The ordeal does not end there. As reported in this newspaper, the noises from an array of street activities have drowned out indoor shoppers and residents alike. Their grievances are understandable.
However, the solutions proposed in a district council's consultation appear to be misguided. Instead of stepping up prosecution against excessive noise and other unauthorised activities, it suggests limiting the vehicle-free hours, from during the week at present to weekends and public holidays only. The other option is to keep the status quo.
It remains unclear whether tranquillity will return when the street is open to vehicles most of the time. What is certain though is that the hustle-and-bustle streetscape will not be the same if the pedestrians hours are squeezed to weekends only.
Those taking advantage of the zone to perform or promote business should be reminded that it is designated for public enjoyment. Only if they act responsibly within the law can they benefit from it. Excessive noise and disturbance will only prompt stricter law enforcement and more restrictions.
The soul of the city lies in its streets. The pedestrian zone helps define Mong Kok and adds character to the district. It would be a shame if the street which breathes life into the area is to be dominated by vehicles again.