Taking steps to talk the walk

Hong Kong will host the first international conference in Asia to promote walking and walkability in the hope of encouraging the government to put people first ahead of motorists in planning public space.

Mary Ann Benitez

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hong Kong will host the first international conference in Asia to promote walking and walkability in the hope of encouraging the government to put people first ahead of motorists in planning public space.

About 100 speakers from 30 countries will speak at the five-day Walk21 Hong Kong to be attended by some 500 international and local delegates on October 3-7 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Highlights will be so-called "walkshops" where delegates go on walks to 30 places in the SAR and a public forum that will be open to up to 900 students, youths and others to discuss "walking toward a low-carbon Hong Kong."

Civic Exchange, which is co-host with Walk21, a UK-based movement, said it is the 17th year Walk21 has held the conference, but the Hong Kong meet is the first in Asia.

"The purpose is to promote the benefit of walking on a personal and environmental level, the kind of health benefits, the fact it is carbon zero but also it is socially inclusive and good for active aging. That's on the personal side," said new Civic Exchange chief executive Maura Wong Hung-hung.

"We need to promote walkability, which has to do with how a city government, its planners and its real estate developers think about how to create a physical environment that is more pleasant and sustainable for people who love to walk. Our slogan is 'walking puts people first,' which is our way of saying that Hong Kong has to develop into a place where we think it's time to give back the road space, give back the urban planning space to people as opposed to vehicles first."

There will be presentations on civic projects, including the Des Voeux Road central pedestrianization, the harbor loop advanced by a group of architects to create a 23-kilometer walking and cycling loop around Victoria Harbour that will be connected to the MTR and ferry connection points, as well as a Green Deck to cover the Cross-Harbour Tunnel entrance.

Singapore's plan of connecting all its public parks and Stockholm's strategy of walkability and public transport will also be discussed.