Cross-border car influx will ride roughshod over city's pedestrians

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2012, 12:00am


Lau Nai-keung hit the nail on the head when he urged Hongkongers to blame our officials, and not mainland visitors, for negligence in managing growth within the capacity of our city ('Blame negligent officials, not mainland tourists', February 3). If we do want to compensate for our falling birth rate, then let's choose healthy family and merit-based immigration, and not babies born to non-resident parents.

The same day, this newspaper reported on 20,000 Facebook users opposing cross-border private cars, and mixed this up with the unacceptable bigotry of name-calling.

Hong Kong's 2,000-kilometre road network has the highest density of vehicles after Monaco, and our awkward topography forces high-capacity roads through urban areas, hemmed in by the harbour and steep mountains.

Over three decades, Hong Kong carefully crafted a transport policy, with rail as the backbone, to steer the city clear of the gridlock it suffered in the 1970s. The number of vehicles has been stable over the last five years, with the exception of private cars, which jumped by 20 per cent, increasing traffic congestion. The average journey speed has dropped to 24.9km/h in Kowloon and 21.3km/h on Hong Kong Island.

With a cheap vehicular bridge rather than a rail link to Macau and Zhuhai, the pressure is on to let mainland vehicles join the queues trying to get into Mong Kok, the tip of Kowloon, Hung Hom, Kowloon Bay, North Point, Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Central, Sheung Wan, Repulse Bay and Stubbs Road.

Touring visitors may not mind being stuck in traffic while sightseeing, but Hong Kong residents will have to spend more time in traffic just to get essential things done. It will also become less convenient every day for the 80 per cent of Hong Kong's residents who walk to get to transport, work, school and shops.

Ever more road-capacity improvements will further impair the 'walkability' of Hong Kong. More street crossings will be removed and more guard railings, footbridges and subways will be built to stop pedestrians from impeding the flow of traffic, all resulting in crowding of footpaths, mind-numbing tunnels and detours, and more roadside air and noise pollution.

Mainland vehicles, not mainlanders, are the true locusts unleashed on Hong Kong. Vehicle-based tourism is an invasive pest that will harm this city long after the powers who allow it leave office.

Paul Zimmerman, Designing Hong Kong