Mong Kok's pedestrian zone to operate only at weekends

Mong Kok's bustling traffic-free precinct will operate only at weekends and public holidays after district councillors act on complaints

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 November, 2013, 5:23am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 November, 2013, 4:55pm

Mong Kok's bustling pedestrian area will be reopened to traffic on weeknights after councillors voted near-unanimously to restrict the road closures to weekends and public holidays.

Members of Yau Tsim Mong District Council's traffic and transport committee cited the nuisance for locals and safety as they voted 24 to zero, with one abstention, to open Sai Yeung Choi Street South to traffic from 4pm to 10pm Monday to Friday.

The pedestrianised area is popular with salespeople, political campaigners and street performers, all attempting to attract the attention of shoppers. But people living and running businesses nearby say the crowds can be a nuisance and even a danger.

"An elderly woman told me that she couldn't get medical help, as the ambulance couldn't get through the jammed street," committee member Wong Shu-ming said. "It is time to review our pedestrianisation policy."

But Lam Kin-man, the only councillor to abstain, said he had reservations.

"I can see there are strong views from residents, who say activities in the precinct are causing a nuisance," Lam said. "But we have to balance that with the voices of other users of the street, the majority of whom want to keep the current situation."

The Home Affairs Department carried out a consultation with 750 residents and shop owners, of whom 80 per cent wanted to see pedestrianisation limited. The survey, conducted by students from Shue Yan University, also questioned 600 people on the street, of whom 60 per cent wanted to keep the status quo.

Betty Ho Siu-ping, the Home Affairs Department's district officer for Yau Tsim Mong, said the present arrangements had failed to tackle the problem of "insufficient road space to accommodate both vehicular traffic and pedestrians", which led to the introduction of pedestrianisation in 2000. The hours the pedestrian zone operates have already been reduced twice. The Transport Department said it would take three to four months to put the new arrangement in place and inform the public.

Some 13,500 pedestrians use the street each hour on weekdays, but the number surges to 20,000 during weekends and Sundays, according to figures from the department.

Musician Chan Kim-hung, a regular performer in the precinct, said the decision was "completely wrong". If the restrictions were to be introduced, all of the street performers would rush there at once. "It will only get more crowded," he said.