23 March 2019

The Big Picture: GREEN CENTRAL

Imagine Hong Kong’s Central business district with no polluting cars and buses, where pedestrians walk on tree-lined, grass-covered streets, where bird songs replace the cacophony of vehicular traffic, where air is fresh and clean… 

Such vision could turn into reality if a plan by an alliance of planners and academics is implemented by the government. The group is calling on the city to ban buses and cars from a 1 kilometer stretch of road between Central and Sheung Wan and turn it into a pedestrian and tram precinct.

The Hong Kong Institute of Planners, consultants MVA Hong Kong Ltd., a City University academic and Civic Exchange have hatched a plan to revitalize Des Voeux Road Central between Pedder Street and Morrison Street, and cut roadside air pollution.

“The time is ripe for implementation of the plan now,” MVA director Chapman Lam said Monday.

The plan calls for public transport routes to be rerouted from Des Voeux Road Central to Connaught Road Central and a new bus terminal located on Connaught Road Central.

The alliance said this action could be taken immediately and would have little impact on traffic.

The next step would involve larger-scale traffic diversions and the replacement of concrete with grass in the zone, along the lines of projects in Japan and many European cities, it said.

The first step could be completed as soon as 2016 and the rest of the work by 2020 with government support.

“It echoes a similar trend in other world cities like New York and London. A pedestrian-friendly Des Voeux Road Central will enhance connectivity and pedestrian movement, reduce traffic congestion, promote business, and improve roadside air quality,” said Civic Exchange chief research officer Simon Ng.

Roadside air quality would also be improved significantly because the main sources of pollution are diesel commercial vehicles and franchised buses in the district, the proposal said.

Ning Zhi, assistant professor at City University’s School of Energy and Environment, said his research indicated that a 30 percent cut in traffic in this area would reduce roadside air pollutants by between 20 and 40 percent.

The proposal was submitted to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and various government departments last week.

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