A police “safety” campaign has seen pedestrian ticketing rise over 1,000% in the first quarter of 2021, with beat cops giving almost 2,400 tickets for jaywalking offences in the first three months of the year, according to figures seen by Transit Jam.
From January to March, police gave 1,959 tickets for crossing against a light signal and almost 400 tickets for crossing within 15 metres of a light signal, footbridge or subway.
Police say the crackdown is intended to send a stern message to pedestrians.
“The message the Police would like to convey to the public is that jaywalking is very dangerous, as has been born [sic] out by the traffic accident statistics, and that in addition to road design (engineering) and education, prosecution is a necessary part of our efforts to reduce pedestrian casualties,” says a spokesman.
But road safety expert Julian Kwong, who works as a highway safety consultant for the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank, says the current approach will likely lead to “slow and even stagnant” progress on road safety.
“The approach of blaming or implying a blame on pedestrians is outdated, unfair and potentially dangerous,” says Kwong, who has campaigned for 30 kph zones in Hong Kong.
Kwong says blaming pedestrians is not ethical and can over-simplify the causes of pedestrian deaths.
“Labelling pedestrians could rationalise drivers’ view that pedestrians are always at fault and their driving behaviour is not a problem,” he says.
The engineer, who says even the term “jaywalking” is driver-oriented, recommends Hong Kong move in line with United Nations best practice, which recognises as morally unacceptable that anybody is killed or seriously injured while using the road system.
Each week in 2019 saw at least one pedestrian killed and 11 seriously injured, according to the latest figures available from Transport Department.
And Kwong says speed is often a factor.
“Inappropriate or grossly excessive speeds among some drivers in the urban area is a key road safety factor. However, the authorities do not seem to recognise the problem but rather focus on changing pedestrians. There is little published data on speed distribution and speeding in urban areas, but our own limited data suggests a very worrying picture,” he says.