Policy

SURPRISE RAILING DEPLOYMENT ENDS CROSSING BATTLE

Caged pedestrians: new railings surprised lobbyist Clive Law Siu-yin, whose group Wan Chai Transport had been negotiating with the government for a better use of the space

A year-long fight to formalise an impromptu Causeway Bay pedestrian crossing has ended abruptly after Highways Department (HyD) sealed the passageway with railings.

The mass clearance of railings by the government and protestors last year had unearthed a primeval crossing route across Percival Street at Hennessy Road which, activists discovered, had been a legitimate pedestrian crossing in the 1990s.

“You can see the stop line for cars is recessed about five metres back from the junction giving space for pedestrians to cross,” explains Clive Law Siu-yin of community pressure group Wan Chai Transport.

“And of all the traffic light cycles at the junction, only one of those conflicts with the crossing – but we still have more than 60 seconds for crossing, it’s not that conflicting.”

Wan Chai Transport’s proposals made use of a crossing last used in the 1990s, and would save pedestrians a lengthy detour

Law says with the railings removed there’s more than enough time and space for pedestrians to safely cross Percival Street on the red traffic light, with no change to the junction traffic lights required.

Transport Department (TD) told the lobbyists it would investigate traffic flows, Law says, and the group was expecting to hear some news soon when they discovered, on 19 July, Highways Department had simply reinstated most of the railings along Percival Street without further consultation.

“We don’t know if they just couldn’t wait for the TD consultation or [there was another reason]. Could they not have waited?” asks Law.

HyD had, he says, raised an objection about pipelines below the street surface. “Residents nearby say there used to be a crossing here, I was too small to remember,” he says, “but in which case, why would pipelines be a problem? Why could they do it in the past but not now?”

TD and HyD were not available for comment – TD has previously said it would review the necessity of replacing damaged or missing railings on a case-by-case basis, and that HyD would take instructions from TD.

Pedestrians and delivery workers jump the new railings rather than take the 100m detour to the crossing

Law says a crossing at the point would be a real benefit for Causeway Bay pedestrians, and smooth flows at the MTR station too.

“We can see there’s a bottleneck here, because people need to make a detour to cross Percival Street” he says. “The bottleneck also affects the MTR station, because most people then detour to Lockhart Road and use Exit C, when in fact if this crossing is implemented, we could balance more between Exit C and Exit B.”

District Councillors were on board with the idea, with councillors Cathy Yau Man-shan and Louis Mak King-sing inviting Wan Chai Transport to present the idea at a Council Meeting in May.

“Only one pro-Beijing councillor objected, he said we should trust Transport Department and Highways Department as these were professional bodies, and our community proposal was, he said, not professional,” says Law. “We accept that, but the District Council should care about what the citizens think.”

“You don’t need to be an expert to make these proposals,” he says, “Just like Jane Jacobs wasn’t an urban planner.”

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