Cars given priority over people in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 3:05am

Vincent Ng Wing-shun, vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design, is correct in his professional view that our urban landscape has been shaped to accommodate vehicles, particularly private cars, rather than to place people first ("Put people before cars, says designer", August 26).

There appears to be little co-ordination and co-operation between government departments to work out the best solution for the city's quality of life.

The Transport Department takes the first bite of the cherry when any new area is to be developed, and it routinely prioritises road traffic over space for pedestrians.

Other departments must belatedly fit around transport officials' decisions.

In previous times, there was a general works department, which had overall supervision to ensure that there was synergy and cohesion in any government work plans, and that taxpayers' money was being spent efficiently. Now, departments increasingly act in isolation and are only concerned about spending, and then increasing, their own budgets.

The new harbourfront at Central is an illustration of this poor policy, and how our engineering limits creativity and lacks good aesthetics.

Other Asian and Chinese cities are getting ahead of us in urban planning. As an example, the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen is giving priority to waterways and green space for pedestrians, and vehicles are segregated into secondary areas.

The vast majority of Hong Kong people use public transport and are pedestrians. We definitely need an official change of mindset.

Our bureaucratic decision-makers will routinely use private cars, and accordingly base their resolutions on their own personal experience and bias.

Private cars were a mid-20th century solution to urban travel, and our officials must realise we are already in the 21st century and vibrant urban planning necessitates "people first; cars last" policies.

Most of the world's leading cities have already reached this conclusion, and have implemented measures to limit private car usage.

Sadly, Hong Kong is getting left behind because there is a lack of vision and determination within our government.

J. F. Kay, Lai Chi Kok