Thursday, 15 September 2016

Experiencing a Car-Free Zone

How would you like part of Des Voeux Road Central to be a car-free zone?
We're looking forward to September 25, when part of Des Voeux Road Central will be blocked off from vehicular traffic. Perhaps it will get people nostalgic again when the Occupy protests blocked Admiralty for 79 days and spontaneously created a warm, selfless community.

This event though is not a protest, but part of the Clean Air Network's plan to showcase the vision of urban planners on how to convert the busy thoroughfare into a pedestrian-friendly public space without crippling traffic or causing major inconvenience to residents.

The organizers also hope it will persuade Hong Kong people into supporting their ultimate goal of permanently rezoning the main road into a car-free zone.

This is what Clean Air Network envisions for the district
On that Sunday from 10am to 4pm, Des Voeux Road will be blocked between Morrison Street and Man Wa Lane. The area will feature booths, stalls, and even a mini football pitch, and another area will be for artists to perform or exhibit their work.

Trams that go along the line will still be allowed to go through, but at slower speeds, and there will be some 400 volunteers acting as marshalls to ensure pedestrian safety.

Clean Air Network didn't have an easy time persuading the Transport Department into granting the group a temporary traffic arrangement permit. And then the group had to deal with the police and Fire Services Department, who were concerned about potential blockage of emergency vehicular access to the area.

The NGO also had to talk to other stakeholders, like the public transport companies, as about 20 bus routes would be affected.

Winnie Tse of the Clean Air Network hopes the plan won't just be for weekends, when traffic is 40 percent lower, but become a permanent one.

"We want to change people's mindset and we know this is not going to be easy," she said. "A lot of roadside vendors we talked to agreed pollution was serious in the area, but they held a general perception that this is part of life."

Professor Ng Mee-kam, director of Chinese University's Urban Studies Programme, is supportive of the plan.

"I believe people are smart enough to adapt -- remember the Occupy protests?" she asked.

"I'm for non-motorized transport and walking experience. Pedestrianizing the area will help people interact with each other on the streets, gaining inspiration and boosting our social capital," Ng said.

Sounds like a plan!

1 comment:

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