You know the scene. You're strolling along a busy Causeway Bay pavement when the smell of egg waffles from a stall across the road hits you. Instead of following your nose across the street, you find yourself hemmed in by metres and metres … and metres of metal fencing, stretching as far as the eye can see. Not a gap in sight. For a split second you contemplate jumping over the railings (hmm, egg waffles, yummy, must have, eggwaffleeees) but images of you crumpled in a heap on the road make you think twice. Frustrated, you keep on walking and walking … and walking, until you find a gap, by which time the craving for the battered treat is as distant as the vendor selling them.
I hear you; the extra bit of exercise is good for us, but in time-poor Hong Kong - oh, and did I mention I'm lazy? - it's not always convenient to go that extra mile.
I'm forever grateful for the clean and right-on-time MTR, but when we exit a station do we need to be herded like sheep? I often feel like letting out a high-pitched bleat (mixed with a few expletives) as I am shepherded by the railings.
The city's love affair with barricades harks back to the 1960s, when urban planning was car-oriented. Back then, traffic engineers were all about keeping the streets congestion-free, and the best way to achieve that was by segregating pedestrians and vehicles.
Granted, the environment for pedestrians has improved. Since 2002, the Transport Department has introduced schemes in several areas to make them happier places for those on foot. These include car-free zones and areas beautifully named Traffic Calming Streets, which have wider footpaths, less on-street parking and "calming" measures such as speed bumps and sharpened corners.
Another way to improve the pedestrian environment would be to remove the fences - I mean railings - so we feel more like humans and less like sheep.