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A Letter to the Editor by Andrew Maxwell

andrew-maxwell

Recently I’ve noticed that there are an increasing number of trees being removed from the roadsides between the bottom of Hiram’s Highway and Sai Kung town. As well as the trees disappearing, small businesses, derelict, uninhabited buildings and everything in-between are also being squeezed outwards. I can only envisage one reason for this; that plans are afoot to widen the road and develop the current single lane road into a dual carriageway. This – the traffic in Sai Kung and the lack of attention the authorities give it – is a subject that has niggled me for years. There was a supposedly public consultation several years ago purportedly to discuss this matter with the general public – Sai Kung residents. However, the powers that be failed to announce the date and, therefore, the public, the very people that should have been there, were not really involved.

It may be too late to halt this ludicrous development but the simple question for me is; do the powers that be have any idea what they are doing when it comes to traffic matters? The general public certainly enjoy getting away from the cities and their ever-present traffic, only to find themselves stuck in it whilst trying to get in or out of here.

Recently I received an email invitation to the ‘Walk21 Hong Kong Conference’ (3rd to the 7th of October). The conference, in its 17th year, will have many guest speakers; Carrie Lam will be one of the keynote speakers. The main theme is to promote walking and how pedestrianisation improves lives by removing cars and increasing the feel-good factor. I couldn’t agree more. I am going to attend the Walk21 Conference and hopefully I’ll be inspired and leave more positive and hopeful.

We are all aware that Sai Kung has world-class vistas and breath-taking scenery, unrivalled in South China, something that the government should be protecting. So why not start to pedestrianize areas in Sai Kung, if only on weekends to begin with? There is no need for cars to penetrate into the heart of Sai Kung that are popular with tourists and residents alike.

One clear example of complacency by the respective authorities is the traffic situation on Chan Man Street, the loop that encircles the multi-storey car park; it’s a nightmare at weekends. The Police provide minimal input and appear to avoid the area whilst shoppers stand stranded because the taxi lane is packed full with privately owned vehicles. This is a good example of what happens when things get out of control, and unless the government start to really put their minds to resolving these traffic problems properly, then we will soon be overwhelmed by vehicular mayhem.

So what alternatives are there to road transport? Well, Sai Kung is surrounded by water, so why not have a ferry service? Passengers could enjoy our beautiful Geopark with its incredible rock formations and see Sai Kung from a different perspective. Or how about a tunnel, so that cars, trucks, buses and all through traffic could circumvent Sai Kung as another possible alternative to reducing car numbers? Not everyone travelling on our roads are destined for Sai Kung. Is there justification for an MTR service? This remains a very contentious issue. But, it does have to be considered, especially when vehicular traffic is obviously not the answer.

There are people and organisations that are trying their best to stop the rot but they need support; the whole issue needs public support in numbers. The Government’s ‘Heritage’ website’s tagline is Conserve and revitalise Hong Kong heritage. And, part of their policy statement goes: ‘…sustainable approaches for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations’. If this is a true sentiment then any dual carriageway plans should be scrapped. We should reduce, not increase, vehicular traffic. More roads equal more cars.

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