IF YOU have ever been late for an appointment because you have been stuck in a traffic jam then you know how frustrating it is. Traffic congestion in Hong Kong is getting worse and apart from the inconvenience for the person in a car or taxi, it also affects people using public transport. Over 1,500 bus trips are being lost each day due to delays caused by congestion. Not only that but all the time spent stuck in jams is 'lost' time for business and industry. Because it affects us all, congestion is now getting a lot of attention from the Government, from the motor industry, from public transport corporations and from green groups like the Friends of the Earth (FoE). FoE is concerned by the trends in traffic growth because this is a major cause of air pollution, and a whole range of environmental problems associated with road building and use. Fact One: Air pollution in Hong Kong regularly approaches or exceeds Government health standards. Fact Two: Road traffic is responsible for the majority of particulate (dust) emissions which are linked to respiratory and heart diseases and cancer. Fact Three: Air pollution is going to get worse as a result of the increasing number of road vehicles. Nitrogen oxide emissions (another health-threatening group of pollutants) will increase by 60 per cent by 2001. As well as air pollution, one million people are estimated to be exposed to high levels of traffic noise in Hong Kong. Building more roads to accommodate the traffic is not the answer either, as more roads eventually attract more cars and traffic. Road building schemes can also cause large areas of conservation, recreation and landscape value to be lost, can divide communities and are often visually unattractive and intrusive. With half a billion motor vehicles on the world's roads, traffic growth is more than just a local concern. The solution is not about reducing congestion but fundamentally we must find greener ways to move around. There must be more encouragement to use environmentally less damaging transport systems, such as public transport, and walking and cycling. Mass transport systems, such as railways, buses, ferries and trams are much more efficient at moving people around. Eighty per cent of trips in Hong Kong are made on public transport for a start. One bus carrying 60 passengers takes up about 20 times less road space than 60 people driving cars, not to mention the more economical use of fuel and efficient use of resources to manufacture one bus compared to 60 cars. Imagine walking through a pedestrianised Pedder Street or Nathan Road, with no car fumes, honking horns or noisy engines. Partial or total car bans have been established in many European cities. By turning streets into car-free zones and attractive places to shop, local shopkeepers found that turnover actually increased. And what about pedal-power? On your bikes, for the ultimate in non-polluting transport. We want more bike lanes and paths. Unthinkable in Hong Kong? Bike couriers in London are the fastest way to get around. With some imaginative planning bicycle paths could be introduced in New Towns and outlying areas, but some driver education will be needed! So what are our tips for reducing congestion? Walk it, bike it or use public transport, rather than taking a taxi or relying on a car. Friends of the Earth is a non-profit environmental organisation. For further information, please call 2528-5588.