Talking the walk, walking the talk

Top News | Chan Ho-him 4 Oct 2016

New towns will have features to encourage people to walk to public transport facilities, Director of Planning Ling Kar- kan told the opening of an international Walk21 conference in Hong Kong.

He said the trade-off between a pedestrian-friendly or car-oriented road design will be a continuous battle that the government has to fight.

"For our new town development that will go on in the coming two decades, it will encourage people to walk to the public transport facilities," he said.

Ling also said the government aims to narrow roads while widening pavements. It also wants to provide more green space in new public parks.

The government hopes to change pedestrian and road users' behavior and perception to create a more walkable Hong Kong.

He described increasing walkability and the use of public space as a "social movement."

Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung told the conference at the Convention and Exhibition Centre the government needs to rediscover walking in the trade-off between being walkable and transport- oriented planning.

In the opening ceremony, Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government has put walkability high on the agenda and has put out more than 200 plans to make public walkways barrier free.

Experts have said people need to walk 10,000 steps a day to keep healthy. Earlier last month on September 25, a 200-meter swathe of Des Voeux Road Central was car-free, which was hailed as a breakthrough for promoting walking and walkability.

Ling said: "If the Des Voeux Road Central project can go ahead, that is a project with global significance."

But the founding director of the Oval Partnership, Christopher Law Kin- chung, said it takes time to change the traditional traffic-oriented mindset in urban development.

Law stressed that increasing walkability also means designing "safe and fun" places to walk but the city currently relies heavily on footbridges and underpasses.

Among the project presentations at yesterday's conference was a proposed HK$5 billion green deck over the Cross Harbor Tunnel plaza in Hung Hom by the Polytechnic University, which will "act as a green machine" and help reduce the heat island effect generated by the railway and congested traffic at the toll plaza, said vice president of the green-deck task force Andy Tong.

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