Motor vehicles blocked pedestrians for two-thirds of “green man” crossings at the first pedestrian crossing chosen for new “red light” technology, a Transit Jam survey found this weekend.
Over an hour on Saturday lunchtime, the busy Causeway Bay crossing was blocked by vehicles at the start of the “green man” cycle for 65.5% of crossings. And two-thirds of those cases remained blocked for the duration of the “green man,” leading to an often tight squeeze for pedestrians crossing the road.
The crossing site is the first of four chosen by Transport Department (TD) for a six-month “auxiliary device” trial. The device, which TD has not named, projects a red light onto the waiting area of footpaths when the “red man” symbol is lit.
“The red light reflected from the ground or mobile device can serve to remind pedestrians, especially those looking at their mobile phones, that they should not cross the road when the ‘red man’ symbol is lit,” says TD, adding that three more sites will be added in Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin and Kowloon Tong this month.
Pedestrians at the Percival Street crossing were ambivalent about the red light device, which barely lit the ground in the bright sunshine.
One man said he had heard of the scheme but didn’t notice the red light on the ground.
Several others took photos of each other’s hair and clothes bathed in a red glow, while a father pointed out the new technology to his two young sons.
And a Food Panda bicycle rider stopped at the traffic light said he thought it was a good idea, as “pedestrians often dash out without looking,” he said.
Transport Department’s chief engineer Alex Au Ka-kit told an RTHK programme on Friday that authorities were learning from experience on the mainland and overseas, including Austria and Croatia.
Au also said four of the seven fatal incidents occurring on Hong Kong’s road crossings were related to “pedestrian behaviour”.
But speaking on RTHK’s Backchat programme on Friday, road safety expert Julian Kwong said he was concerned such devices may “pass a message that [crashes] are only the fault of the pedestrian, so we need to be careful about that.”
Kwong said speed was a more critical issue.
“In fact, worldwide and advocated by UN, is to have urban area speed limits for most urban streets cut down from 50 kph to 30 kph,” he said.
“In Hong Kong we have not adopted this approach and I think this is the fundamental strategy we should adopt. Other auxiliary measures may help but only address part of the problem and won’t be adopted at every crossing.”
Transport Department has not yet responded to questions on the issue of the blocked crossings, the results from overseas experience or the cost of the trial.