image image

Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

Mong Kok buskers lower decibel levels as mock regulations on noise given an unofficial trial

To prove rules would ease problems on busy Sai Yeung Choi Street South pedestrian zone, district councillor Andy Yu held a busking control simulation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 9:56pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 10:22pm

Street performers at a noisy pedestrian zone in Mong Kok kept the decibel levels down on Sunday evening, testing mock regulations in a bid to halt the impending closure of the area, a political party said.

To prove regulations would help cut noise levels and obstructions on Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Andy Yu Tak-po held a busking control “simulation” with two performance areas set up in the zone.

Performers were told to keep the noise under 85 decibels. They were also prohibited from using large amplifiers and power generators. Other rules included a one-hour limit for musical performances and 30 minutes for other acts, as well as following a queuing system.

“You can see that the performers are queuing … they have mutual respect, and the problem of blocking the street has also been improved,” Yu, who had called for a temporary closure of the zone and stronger government regulations, said.

The Civic Party district councillor said noise was kept under 85 decibels near the two performance areas, but was as high as 100 decibels on another stretch of the street.

To put that into context, a rock concert typically reaches 108 decibels, a jet engine operates at about 120, and prolonged exposure to noise above 85 decibels is considered a health hazard.

He also said if the noise continued unabated, the pedestrian zone would inevitably close. The street, which was hugely popular with entertainers as well as shoppers, was only car-free on weekends and public holidays until 10pm.

Yau Tsim Mong District Council last month adopted a motion to scrap the 18-year-old pedestrian zone following a rising number of complaints from nearby residents.

Last year more than 1,270 complaints were filed about noise and obstructions in the zone.

The Transport Department has not yet given a date to overturn the arrangement to close off the street to vehicles on weekends, but is due to meet councillors again next month.

Mong Kok street performers get the chop

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho said it would not take a lot of government manpower to regulate the zone, with about five people keeping an eye on the two performance areas on Sunday.

“If the government is willing to introduce better regulations … there are many possibilities apart from keeping the zone or scrapping it,” Tam said.

He said the party may test further simulations.

Experienced performers such as freestyle footballer Lyson Sze, rope-skipping world champion Timothy Ho Chu-ting and singer “Mong Kok Law Man”, took part in Sunday’s exercise.

Sze described the experience with and without the mock regulations as “two different worlds”.

“With the simulated regulations, there is at least 20 metres between performance areas, so the sounds don’t overlap,” Sze said.

Why Mong Kok’s street performers are not music to the ears

He added that the noise levels were much lower than before and he was able to interact with the audience without using a microphone.

Sze also said he had seldom performed in the pedestrian zone over the past year due to the noise and lack of space.

A street performer known as “Mr Funny” said he supported a licensing system and that it was common practice in Western countries.

A 69-year-old onlooker, surnamed Chiu, said a licensing system was needed to regulate performers. “Without licences, performers will do what you say today, but it could be different tomorrow,” he said.