Environment & Health Hong Kong

Environmental groups demonstrate new proposal to turn Central streets into car-free zone

Four environmental groups took to the streets of Central armed with green carpets and picnics on Thursday after submitting a proposal to the government last week that suggested turning parts of the area into a pedestrian- and tram-only zone.

Clean Air Network, Designing Hong Kong, Friends of the Earth and the Conservancy Association set up seating areas on the streets of Central to demonstrate the idea of turning a kilometre between Des Voeux Road Central, Pedder Street and Morrison Street into a car-free zone, outlined in their joint proposal to the Town Planning Board.

Environmental groups tried out their pedestrian and tram only zone plan in Central. Photo: Clean Air Network.

Environmental groups demonstrated the pedestrian- and tram-only zone proposal in Central. Photo: Clean Air Network.

The proposal suggested that cars and buses were the main source of air quality problems in Central. It said that after the new MTR lines and the Central–Wan Chai Bypass is completed, traffic volume can be reduced by diverting buses. Subsequently the roads can be used for other purposes, such as for performances and exhibitions.

Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung, senior environmental affairs officer at Friends of the Earth, told RTHK: “We hope to show people through this action that we have a public space… where we can sing and relax.”

She added: “If there were fewer cars here today [Thursday], the environment would be even better, and the air would be fresher.”

The proposed green area in Central. Photo: Clean Air Network.

A proposed “green area” in Central. Photo: Clean Air Network.

The proposal came after a consulting company submitted plans to the Town Planning Board last month that suggested cancelling the tram route between Central and Admiralty.

The Intellects Consultancy proposed to eliminate tram services from Jubilee Street and Arsenal Street on the grounds that it would ease the traffic in the area. The head of the consultancy, Sit Kwok-keung, was quoted in an interview as saying that “it is faster to walk than to take the tram.”

The proposal sparked widespread debate, with many expressing outrage at the suggestion. On August 24, marathon group Run the World organised a race between man and tram in light of Sit’s claim. Only four participants out of more than 40 were able to outrun the Kennedy Town–Happy Valley tram.

Environmental groups demonstrate new proposal to turn Central streets into car-free zone