Hikers say unnecessary railings and walls are ruining the city's much used walking trails. All but 10 per cent of the 700 kilometres of railings have been replaced by what walkers term 'prison-like' barriers because of their numerous vertical metal bars. Hikers prefer the old-style railings with a single horizontal tube because they don't obscure the view. They remain on only a few tracks on Hong Kong Island and in the New Territories, including Black's Link, Bowen Road, Chatham Path, Borrett Road, May Road, Mount Cameron Road and Severn Road. The Transport Department has been replacing the old railings with the new for about 15 years during routine maintenance. It says the new design, costing HK$170 to HK$360 a metre depending on terrain, avoids on-street welding and prevents pedestrians from climbing over. It did not give the cost of the older design. Product designer Freeman Lau Siu-hong, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Design Centre, described the new railing as clumsy and complicated. 'Design is about proportion and context,' he said. 'The existing design of the railing only serves to make walking on the street more annoying. It seems they want to stop human beings as well as pets from climbing over. There is certainly room for improving the design.' Mid-Levels resident and frequent walker Melanie Moore and her friend Vivian Leung Tai Yuet-kam, a founder of the Lung Fu Shan Environmental Concern Group, are lobbying officials to stop installing the new railings. 'The railing is so ugly. I want to know why the government cannot pick a nicer design when they are building barriers,' Moore said. She vowed she would stop the government replacing the old-style railings on Hong Kong Island with the new design. Hiker and Conservancy Association campaign manager Peter Li Siu-man said the Transport Department's approach highlighted officials' paternalistic mentality. 'Officials are keen on preventing accidents,' he said. 'But the fact is that walking trails are already graded ranging from family-friendly to suitable for experienced walkers only. Will they stop us from going to the countryside because it is dangerous? 'Everyone knows they have to be responsible for their own safety. No one will do stupid things. All the government needs to do is to remind the people to be careful. It should not damage the natural setting.'