Hundreds of protesters are still on our streets, yet barricades put in place by students and police when there were tens of thousands are still blocking traffic. The demonstrators insist that they remain, preventing attempts to take them away. They are the reason journeys in and through affected districts take longer, why some bus routes have been cancelled or diverted and road congestion has considerably worsened. As Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the Federation of Students bargain for talks on constitutional development, there would be no better gesture of goodwill towards Hong Kong than to allow their removal. Police yesterday made clear the extent of the disruption to daily lives. A total of 2.9km of our busiest thoroughfares, Connaught, Gloucester and Hennessey roads on Hong Kong Island, and Nathan Road in Mong Kok are fenced off. Traffic was at times banked up to a combined 12.5km. Emergency vehicles were not making targets; 93 per cent of ambulances were arriving on time, with delays of up to nine minutes. Primary schools and kindergartens in affected areas have only reopened this week, the threat of further chaos now believed to have passed. But the road diversions mean travel times are longer for many children, just as they are for office and shop workers. Out-of-hours activities for many people are still disrupted. Understandably, those being inconvenienced wonder why, with the protests now so small, large stretches of streets behind the barriers should remain off-limits to buses, delivery trucks and private vehicles. Police and education officials are among those who have appealed for protesters to allow the barriers to be taken away so that life can return to normal. Previous attempts have prompted students to alert other demonstrators, who have rushed in to ensure that ground gained is not lost. But our roads cannot be a bargaining chip in negotiations; they are for all the people of Hong Kong to use. Giving them back to the public would set the right mood and tone for talks.