Like most people in Hong Kong, I don’t own a car and use public transport to navigate the city. I love to walk as much as possible and particularly enjoy a morning walk along the harbour front. The ferries, boats, and tugs as well as the occasional floating petrol station all going about their business. The sky everchanging and if lucky there might be a rainbow. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park is a hive of fitness groups, dancers, yoga classes, tai chi masters and the occasional children’s party. To get to Sun Yat Sen Park and to walk along the harbour towards the Western District I must first navigate the streets of Sheung Wan and cross highway 4, Connaught Road West. Once there the views are amazing.
Growing up in England I was taught the ‘GREEN CROSS CODE’. How to cross the road safely especially when there are no pedestrian or traffic light crossing. This got me thinking…. Are children in Hong Kong taught road safety?
Here in Hong Kong, The Road Crossing Code is published in the Road Users Guide. This is issued with a driving licence. Somewhat ironic when most pedestrians here never drive.
Look left and look right signage can be seen at hazardous intersections but I do see many adults with children just walking into the road and sometime into busy side roads.
Not having any children, I thought I’d ask around and who better to ask than my good friend James. James has three children and founded Transit Jam. Transit Jam is Hong Kong’s first and only registered newspaper dedicated to sustainable transport. James Ockenden and his team of reporters cover the city’s public transit, sustainable mobility and transport safety issues with daily news and features.
James ran the sites first forum - “Rethinking Vehicles First”. Drawing participants from Hong Kong and overseas for a programme of ideas, visions, and debate on tackling the City’s major urban transport challenges. James is also a regular guest on Radio 3 talking about transport issues and produces RTHK radio show - WHAM BAM TRAM.
James tells me he started Transit Jam when he was constantly frustrated by the difficulties of navigating Mid-levels, Sheung Wan and the Western district. Cars and vans illegal parked and construction sites blocking the pavements. Having that constant feeling of being unsafe whilst walking and regularly having to walk into the road with his young children.
Pavement blocked by construction works Government piers Central 28th September 2021.
Pavement blocked by bamboo scaffolding on Bonham Strand West 27th September 2021.
Pavement blocked by construction work Queen’s Road East 4th October 2021.
Pavement blocked by refuse collection bins and cut tree branches.
The Transport Department and Police Department now have another platform probing them about road safety issues and traffic planning.
James tells me that it is the police department who are educating children about road safety. Without any engagement with the local community this is not effective. Leaflet dropping on the first day of school is not education. James has tried to initiate more dialogue between his children’s school and the police liaison office. This has not resulted in any progress or police follow up.
The Green Cross Code - STOP, LOOK, THINK!
1. THINK! First find the safest place to cross,
2. STOP! Stand on the pavement near the kerb,
3. USE YOUR EYES AND EARS! Look all around for traffic and listen,
4. WAIT UNTIL IT IS SAFE TO CROSS! If traffic is coming, let it pass,
5. LOOK AND LISTEN! When it is safe, go straight across the road – do not run,
6. ARRIVE ALIVE! Keep looking and listening.
Another campaign James is very passionate about is the proposal for the Central Pedestrian Area of Queen's Road Central. This proposal which was submitted to the Transport Department over a year ago involves the opening of the road to pedestrians. The area Theatres Lane to Queen's Street would create lanes for green handling and to encourage non-motor vehicles such as cargo bikes and carts, replacing vans and minivans. Political Party DAB are strongly behind this proposal and is encouraging local business to support it. Three lane road which are two lanes of illegally parked vehicles and one which carries the traffic. Imagine opening this space for the pedestrians and the difference it would make especially during the peak times.
James explains this mission in his video:
During our chat James refers me to the HK Government’s commitment to being Carbon Neutral by 2050. A popular agenda for many world leaders given climate change. Hong Kong is a city built for vehicles and not for pedestrians. Referring to Government statistic there were approximately 600,000 vehicles on our roads in 2010 and in July 2021 this figure is 814,814. This leads to more illegally parking and more dangers to pedestrians, especially children and the elderly.
- Elderly gentleman crossing the road into oncoming traffic. Queen’s Street is a known black spot for traffic accidents.
I’d like to thank James Ockenden for his time and for sharing his views about road safety. You can find more traffic news and features for Sustainable Hong Kong Transport at his website.
Wham Bam Tram Radio show https://www.rthk.hk/radio/pth/programme/p1037_urban_transit_show