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Extreme weather drives Hongkongers into vehicles as number unwilling to walk short distances doubles in 12 months

Survey from World Green Organisation finds that record hot spell and torrential rain means city’s residents are opting not to walk when they could

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2018, 5:11pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2018, 9:48pm

A green group has called on the government to improve the city’s walking environment, after a survey found more Hongkongers were using vehicles to travel short distances.

Commissioned by the World Green Organisation, the survey asked 500 adults about their walking habits during the latter half of August.

The third of its kind in the past three years, the study found 22 per cent of respondents said they preferred not to walk if their destination was within a five-minute drive – double the number from last year.

Apart from saving time, the major reasons for not walking included bad weather, and sickness. More than half of interviewees said they did not walk short distances because the weather was either too hot, cold or wet.

The number was 5 per cent up from last year, while 34 per cent people feel sick, a 15 per cent increase from 2017.

Dr William Yu Yuen Ping, the CEO of World Green Organisation, said more people should walk during their daily commute.

“Walking is an intermediary exercise and it’s good for health, especially for hearts, by walking for more than 30 minutes regularly,” he said.

The green group believes this year’s extreme weather, such as the record run of hot days in May, or heavy rainstorms, is affecting people’s willingness to walk to their destinations.

Of those interviewed, another 9 per cent, mostly female, were unwilling to walk because they were afraid their appearance would be affected.

How Hong Kong’s weather is getting hotter and more extreme

Yu said the unwillingness to walk was not because of laziness, as the survey also showed an increasing number of people walking longer distance, often for more than 30 minutes at a time.

According to the survey, some 74 per cent of people walk at least three days a week, with at least more than 30 minutes each session, and 29 per cent of people walk frequently for more than 30 minutes each day, double the number from last year.

“It is really uncomfortable to walk in the city when there’s amber rain or under hot weather,” Yu said.

“Urban planning should consider factors of extreme weather, and add facilities such as shelters to provide people with a pleasant walking experience.”

He said as the city faced an ageing populations, more rest places should be set up for elderly people.

Regarding the walking environment, more than 60 per cent people think it is important. With major factors to a pleasant walking environment including, air quality, clearness of walking areas, green spaces, and safety infrastructure for pedestrians.

Hong Kong heatwave left city’s poorest reduced to tears and fighting off depression

To attract more people to walk, Yu said increasing green space in the city by about 1000 square metres, could bring the temperature down one or two degrees in the area.

With the theme of Urban Hiking this year, the group will hold a series of events at schools, and in public, to encourage people to join hiking in the city, including a carnival on October 28.