A $13.9 million government study pledging pedestrian zones in Central and Sham Shui Po, including the scene of a fatal crash last night, has been scrubbed from existence and all documents relating to the consultancy removed, Transit Jam has learned.
The website of the 2017 “Consultancy Study on Enhancing Walkability in Hong Kong”, walk.hk, which had still been accessible in April this year, now directs to a Transport Department page which has no mention of the 30-month $13,883,200 million consultancy awarded to Mott MacDonald and which held many workshops and events around the city in 2018 and 2019.
The page to which walk.hk redirects, last modified on 2 December 2021, prioritises the government’s $5.4 million signpost consultancy project awarded to Arup in May this year. “An informative, user-friendly and consistent wayfinding system helps pedestrians better plan their journey,” says the website, without mentioning the cost of the study or who the contract was awarded to.
According to the original Walk HK study, walkable zones including pedestrianisation of Staunton Street, Elgin Street and Peel Street, were under consideration for the pilot scheme. But all details and documents of this were found missing during searches, with the walk.hk website only accessible through internet archives.
Staunton Street saw a horrific crash last night, where an illegally-parked SUV rolled backwards and careened into the busy junction with Peel Street, injuring eight pedestrians. One 27-year-old woman died of her injuries on Sunday night while seven others were injured. The driver, a 44-year-old Filipino woman working as a Foreign Domestic Helper, has been charged with dangerous driving causing death and will appear in court Monday.
In the wake of the crash, community leaders reignited calls for pedestrianisation of the street.
Dennis Philipse, who runs a major international sporting event in the city, was on the scene of the crash and said the aftermath was “really shocking”.
“It’s really time to close Staunton Street [to traffic] at the weekends and at night – too many cars, taxis and pedestrians,” he told Transit Jam.
District Councillor Paul Zimmerman agreed. “Everyone – write to Carrie Lam and every media – call for pedestrianisation of (upper) Peel, Staunton and Elgin Street during evenings every day, and afternoons plus evenings on public holidays and Sundays … ?” he said on a social media post.
With the Walk HK website expunged, Walk HK only exists now as an Instagram account with seven posts and 153 followers – costing taxpayers around $90,000 per follower and $200,000 per post.
The consultancy project’s last post was on 1 April 2020, where it claimed “We have successfully concluded our Stage 2 Public Engagement in August 2019. Thank You all for your valuable feedbacks [sic]! The summary of feedbacks [sic] collected is now available on our website http://walk.hk. Your feedbacks [sic] are being considered and will help us to refine our proposals. We look forward to sharing our findings with you in 2020!”
Neither government officials or Mott Macdonald staff have responded to requests for comment.