The construction of a concrete barrier on Old Peak Road has been halted because of objections from the public, in the latest stand-off over protective structures on public roads and pathways.
On June 5, Melanie Moore, a British corporate lawyer, noticed the barrier being built outside her home near 23 Old Peak Road. She wondered why a barrier was being built right next to a wall.
Moore contacted the Transport Department and was told that there were surface cracks in the wall. Building a taller barrier further into the one-way street would help prevent vehicles from going over the cliff if drivers lost control, it said.
The Old Peak Road is steps away from hiking trails, and many nature lovers view road improvement projects in the area as unfriendly to pedestrians.
When Moore, other residents and hikers sent letters asking for a public consultation on the concrete barrier project, construction was halted.
'Of course, I don't object to safety improvements,' Moore said. 'But I don't see how a barrier that is designed for multi-lane highways would be appropriate for such a low-traffic residential neighbourhood.'
But the construction delay worries Alan Tam Chung-on, a senior government engineer. 'Because of the steepness of the road and the sharp bend, the existing wall is not adequate,' Tam said. 'Imagine the consequences if a traffic accident happened after we had identified a safety problem and then failed to address it.'
Moore and her fellow residents argue that the proposed barrier would endanger drivers, passengers and pedestrians by further narrowing the already narrow road. They want a public consultation and review of engineers' reports.
Tam said he carried out public consultations last summer, informing politicians and sending letters to residents on Old Peak Road. But property managers of nearby buildings including Hillsborough Court, Dynasty Court and Tregunter Towers said they never received the letters.
'If we had been notified of a proposed construction project that could impact residents, we would have posted notices on bulletin boards in each building,' said Casey Ip, a senior property officer at Hillsborough Court.
Victoria Peak's district councillor Joseph Chan Ho-lim was surprised that he had not been notified about the construction project on Old Peak Road.
'I'm concerned that I haven't seen solid evidence for the need for a new barrier, or documents indicating that a public consultation had taken place last year,' Chan said. 'If there is a potential risk for citizens, we need to go through the proper procedures and complete construction as soon as possible.'
On Sunday, residents were angered by the unexplained erection of a traffic sign in the middle of the sidewalk, across the street from the proposed barrier site.
Asked for an explanation of the sign, the Transport Department said it was to warn drivers to slow down since the road narrowed to 3.5 metres and would endanger residents.
The department had 'received views from residents ... over the safety' of the narrow section, a spokeswoman said.
Last year hundreds of hikers opposed the installation of what they called unnecessary railings along one of the city's most popular walking trails in Pok Fu Lam. In 2010, a green group stopped a protective wall being built on Old Peak Road.
The Central/Western district office is arranging a public consultation to discuss construction on Old Peak Road.
The width of the Old Peak Road, in metres, at its narrowest point, which spurred the Transport Department to take action