Date
23 September 2018
Sai Yeung Choi Street South will be reopened to vehicular traffic full-time from Aug. 4. There are concerns that it might lead to congestion on the pavements as salesmen will seek new places to carry on their activities. Photo: CNSA
Sai Yeung Choi Street South will be reopened to vehicular traffic full-time from Aug. 4. There are concerns that it might lead to congestion on the pavements as salesmen will seek new places to carry on their activities. Photo: CNSA

District council endorses plan to end pedestrian zone from Aug 4

The Yau Tsim Mong District Council has overwhelmingly endorsed the plan of the Transport Department (TD) to scrap a pedestrian zone in Mong Kok from August 4.

The proposal won almost unanimous support from the district council during a meeting Thursday, paving way for authorities to make preparations to reopen the Sai Yeung Choi Street area to vehicular traffic full-time three weeks from now.

The pedestrian zone became a matter of a heated debate earlier as local residents and shopkeepers complained about noise and other disturbances in area, in part due to street performers.

On May 24, the district council voted in favor of ending the pedestrianization, prompting the TD to take up the matter seriously and work toward reversing its previous arrangements for the area.

In a public consultation the TD launched in the district through the Home Affairs Department, around 97 percent of the respondents supported the motion to close the pedestrian street, according to David Ngu Chi-vi, the department’s chief traffic engineer for Kowloon, 

For the survey, authorities sent questionnaires to building owners’ corporations, building management offices, certain residents and shop owners, as well as Yau Tsim Mong district councilors.

According to Ngu, the pavement will be sufficient for the pedestrians after traffic resumes in the zone.

District councilor Chan Siu-tong from Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong praised the efficiency of the Transport Department.

The closure of the pedestrian zone marks a victory for the locals’ campaign, he added.

Andy Yu Tak-po, a district council member from the Civic Party, was among the few who opposed the closure of the pedestrian zone.

Yu argued that rather than ending the pedestrianization, it would have been better if authorities enforced some rules in relation to street performances.

The district council member pointed out that a mock trial conducted by the Civic Party last month, with new rules on street performers and better management, showed the problems could be resolved without scrapping the zone altogether.

Yu alleged that it was actually mismanagement by government authorities that led to the problems and complaints in the area.

If the Mong Kok zone is closed, the street performers will turn to other places such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay and bring nuisance there, he said.

District councilor Kenny Lam Kin-man worries things like telecom sales activities, which are now done from the pedestrian zone, will clog up pavements once the road is cleared for vehicular traffic.

Responding to such concerns, a representative of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said the department will step up monitoring in the area once the pedestrianization ends. 

The TD will, meanwhile, consider widening the pavement, adjusting the traffic lights and canceling part of the parking lots for loading, if necessary.

An entity formed by more than 20 performance groups in the pedestrian zone stage a protest after the Wednesday meeting of the district council.

Slamming authorities over the closure plan, the groups accused the government of not providing enough venues, and also blamed it for management.

The district council, on its part, urged the government to find a new venue for the performers and to review the environment of the street in September after the closure.

The pedestrian area at Sai Yeung Choi Street South had been a full-time car-free zone until 2014 when the government limited such status to weekends and public holidays.

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KN/JC/RC

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