Planning for pedestrians to encourage walking

The Government intends to make walking one of Hong Kong's predominant modes of transport by creating an enjoyable environment for the pedestrians, the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John C Tsang said this evening (January 14).

Walking is the most elementary form of going places, and probably, the most efficient form of travel for short distance journeys. It is good for health, and will help reduce unnecessary road traffic and pollution, he said.

Addressing the first anniversary annual dinner of the Asian Institute of Intelligent Buildings, Mr Tsang said that to take forward the idea, we need to develop an attractive, safe and convenient pedestrian environment which will not only encourage people to walk, but to provide the added value of enjoyment in walking.

To make walking an attractive option, the Planning Department has identified four guiding principles for pedestrian planning in a study commenced a few months ago.

Mr Tsang pointed out that the underlying principle is "Pedestrians First" which means that we must plan from the angle of the pedestrians and their needs.

"Linkage is the first principle. Pedestrian routes should be clear and direct. For longer or upward sloping routes, escalators and travellators should be installed to encourage the public to walk and to serve the needs of the disabled," he said.

"No one will be willing to walk if it is not safe. The second principle is therefore to ensure pedestrians' personal safety. The walkways should be separated from road vehicles and they should be well-lit."

"The third principle is Accessibility and Comfort. The pedestrian walkways should be easily accessible, free from pollution, and properly designed with landscaping, weather protection installations and seating facilities to provide a comfortable and pleasant walking environment.

"Last but not least is the principle of Attractiveness and Vibrancy. We should seek to create suitable pedestrian areas for a variety of activities, such as outdoor performance, alfresco dining, flea markets, or just watching the world go by," he said.

With the completion of a number of planned railways, such as West Rail, Ma On Shan Rail and MTR Tseung Kwan O Extension, most of the working and residential areas in Hong Kong will be within the walking distance of railway stations.

"We should make the best use of the comprehensive rail coverage, and promote pedestrian planning for catchment areas of rail networks, so that people who need to make longer distance trips would be able to comfortably walk to the rail stations."

"We have already been working along this direction. For example, there are comprehensive footbridge and subway connections to most of the MTR and KCR stations."

"We shall continue to promote this idea to ensure that the rail stations are accessible by foot to major residential and commercial areas in the vicinity," he said.

"We shall also promote pedestrian connections with other non-rail based public transport facilities, such as bus and public light bus terminus, ferry piers and tram stations, as well as co-location of public transport interchanges with railway stations."

Apart from promoting pedestrian access to public transport, Mr Tsang said the Government will also promote walking within the local community through better land use and pedestrian planning.

"This would allow most people to live or work within walking distance of a wide range of local services, such as shops, schools, recreation and other community facilities."

Elevated walkways, underground pedestrian links, escalators and travellators should be more commonly used to provide links between railway stations, commercial areas, shopping arcades and high-density residential areas.

More vehicle-free pedestrian streets, squares and plazas should be created in highly congested areas, he said.

These are very common in overseas cities, particularly in shopping areas and tourists' destinations. The pedestrianised areas can also be used for other activities, such as outdoor performance and alfresco dining, to enhance the vibrancy of these areas.

"In urban areas which have the potential for renewal and redevelopment, opportunities will be taken to plan comprehensive pedestrian network and to enhance the pedestrian environment within the area," he said.

"Besides, when considering the plans of new buildings and developments, we can also consider dedicating part of the building lots for pedestrian passage, pavement and public areas in order to enhance pedestrian environment."

"My hope is that in future, we will not only walk more, but enjoy more walking in Hong Kong," Mr Tsang said.

End/Monday, January 14, 2002