Hong Kong's roads could be much better

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 3:08am

As a follow-up to the recent correspondence concerning roundabouts, it is no surprise to read the typically bland and dismissive response to public concerns from T.F. Leung, for the commissioner for transport ("Roundabouts not always the answer on HK's crowded roads" November 8).

So just what is the Transport Department's vision for Hong Kong's roads?

Road engineering solutions around the world have continually evolved, adjusting to advances in understanding and technology, yet we have seen little or no innovation from this department which is mired in outdated thinking and a continuing obsession with building more and wider standardised roads to meet their theoretical road traffic projections.

The controversial Central-Wan Chai bypass is destroying our harbour because the Western Harbour Tunnel tolls are higher than for the other harbour crossings.

The hugely expensive Stonecutters Bridge is virtually unused and soon we will have a mega-road bridge to Macau and Zhuhai which clearly should have been a rail bridge. Who is going to use this connection other than tourists on buses that will bring more traffic problems to the city? And all this time our communities are being severed by widened roads with faster traffic speeds, median dividers, massive noise barriers, pedestrian fences and inconvenient footpath crossings, not to mention the miserable visual environment created by these road "improvements". Pedestrians are undeniably inconsequential in this city.

Yet in Europe, the United States and Australasia, in an initiative known as shared space, pedestrians and cars are not separated by road signs and markings, and traffic lights have already vanished from city centres. Such projects are based on continual research in Europe, where the number of serious accidents has fallen dramatically after almost all traffic lights were removed from towns. Furthermore, traffic flows have improved and better quality urban environments have been created. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have become more careful and aware of other vehicles because they are no longer segregated.

London mayor Boris Johnson has announced plans to remove traffic lights and white lines from some of the capital's busiest streets after the measures reduced the number of accidents in Kensington High Street by 44 per cent over a two-year period.

Of course, don't expect to see this in Hong Kong. That would require vision from the blind.

Barry Wilson, Kennedy Town



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