Taking to Hong Kong's hiking trails is as much about being at one with nature as exercise. They are a pleasant, and for some people necessary, break from city life and all its noise and pressure. On them can be found peace, tranquillity and beautiful views. The last thing we expect is to find them infested with the urban trappings that we have gone so far out of our way to escape from. Invariably and increasingly so, though, the countryside trails are in some places becoming an extension of Hong Kong's urban areas. Grass, dirt and rough stone paths are concreted and lined with railings. The barriers denigrate and block views. Administrators think this is what we want; for the majority of those intent on getting away from it all, it most certainly is not. That is the view of 500 people who signed a petition against the Central and Western District Council's plan to put safety railings along the Hatton Road walking trail in Pok Fu Lam. Just 10 people have objected. Yet councillors, worried that they may face legal claims if there is an accident on the stretch, seem intent on pushing ahead with the project. They have asked the Department of Justice for advice. Accidents can happen at any place and time. Care has to be taken when getting out of the shower to avoid slipping; hikers have to have the same wits about them when on Hong Kong's trails. Concrete and steel are no insurance policy against mishaps. Common sense guides people when hiking, just as it does in taking to our narrow footpaths, navigating crowded shopping districts and crossing streets. Lawmakers and administrators should use the same logic when dealing with our countryside. Concreting country trails and fencing them is good business for contractors but damages the environment. They take away from the experience of being in a special part of our city. Natural surfaces put less strain on feet, legs and backs; warning signs are less visually intrusive and expensive than railings. To think otherwise is to pay scant regard for a precious natural asset.