Despite overwhelming opposition to railings proposed for Old Peak Road, the Central and Western District Council and the Transport Department are not willing to abandon the project.
A poll taken among district council members, area committees and local organisations including the Lung Fu Shan Environmental Concern Group between April and May found that 97 per cent of those asked objected to railings being installed along Old Peak Road and 'at critical points where there [were] serious potential pedestrian safety hazards'.
The poll, conducted by the Home Affairs Department's Central and Western district office, was in the form of a questionnaire sent to nine local groups. Of the 314 responses, 304 objected to the proposal. The environmental concern group, a local organisation of hikers in Central and Western district, also voiced its objections to members of the district council.
But rather than kill off the project, the district council's traffic and transport committee decided at a meeting early this month to take a look at the path before committing to a decision.
The Transport Department, which is responsible for making the final decision, said it would take the council's views into consideration.
'During the site visit, the Central and Western District Council members suggested using stone walls instead of railings, and offered views on sections of road where protective measures should be provided,' a spokeswoman said. 'It was also suggested to add some warning signs to advise pedestrians of the danger of the steep roadside slope.'
The environmental concern group is upset by the positions of the district council and the department. The group says that such works are unnecessary, an eyesore and would spoil the natural landscape.
'Let's leave the trail alone,' group chairwoman Vivian Leung Tai Yuet-kam said. 'People come to embrace the natural environment. The railings would only do irreparable damage to the environment.'
Melanie Moore, a frequent walker on the road, said the proposal to build up a higher kerb was not practical and would be an 'absolute mess'. 'The contractor will just pile up concrete on top of the existing kerb. The layers of concrete will not match and they will slop concrete all over the hiking trail,' she said.
Leung said Old Peak Road was mostly frequented by hikers and morning walkers, and was one of the city's most historic hiking trails.
Police also told the district council they had not received any reports of injury due to accidents on the path in the past 10 years.
But councillor Man Chi-wah said: 'The fact that there has been no accident in the past does not guarantee there will not be one in the future. If someone gets hurt, and if it is found out from records that the council decided not to take safety precautions, no one can take responsibility.'
He said safety risks could not be ruled out.
'The poll did not show a 100 per cent objection [to installing railings],' Man said. 'We still have to take into account the minority's concerns.'
He said the poll did not cover elderly people who walked along the path, as early as 5am in the morning. He said some of these people had told him that railings should be installed along Old Peak Road.
'Even the councillors who visited the road agreed that there are certain spots that might be dangerous,' he said. 'We cannot rule out the risk factors.'
But Leung said that the government could not 'play nanny' all the time; the public should take care of themselves.
'A trail walker just cannot blame the government or the district council just because he stumbles or sprains his ankle,' she said.