HKFP Voices Sponsored

Cities without a heart lose their global relevance: The push to pedestrianise Central

[sponsored] Hong Kong’s Central Business District is dying. Its major transportation hub – Des Voeux Road Central (DVRC) – is dismal and is not representative of our city’s image and stature. The street is polluted and congested and is not conducive to walking. Its technology is poor, elderly, unfriendly and its cultural assets are buried.

central pedestrianisation

Photo: DVRC.

DVRC, as uninviting as it may be, is a perfect place-making opportunity. Fix this 1.4 km stretch of road from Pedder Street to Western Market and you repair an essential part of the city; you give it a heart.

des voeux road central

Photo: DVRC.

DVRC can form the basis of a real and vibrant city centre that showcases Hong Kong’s heritage and promotes the wellbeing of its citizens.

Walk DVRC

Walk DVRC was founded as an NGO earlier this year, with a vision for a more walkable and liveable Central Business District that begins with the revitalisation of this decaying thoroughfare.

des voeux road central

Photo: DVRC.

It seeks to transform DVRC into a dynamic public realm – linking a critical artery to surrounding cultural and heritage sites, such as Tai Kwun, Man Mo Temple and Western Market.

 des voeux road central

Photo: DVRC.

Functional public space is more important than ever for people who live in dense, urban environments such as Hong Kong. DVRC is the extension of a community front door that leads to public institutions such as banks, noodle shops and retail outlets – places where people transact and interact.

des voeux road central

Photo: DVRC.

Enhancing this space enriches the lives of its users, socially, culturally, economically and in terms of overall health and environment.

It’s easier than it sounds

Transforming DVRC into a vibrant destination and pedestrian-first city core isn’t a new idea. Over recent years, studies have affirmed the viability of this effort. International examples of successful pedestrianisation and place-making initiatives are plentiful. The Hong Kong community, from grassroots groups to influential corporates, are supportive – and walkability is high on the government’s agenda.

A partial road closure last year to vehicular traffic was hugely popular with the general public. Recent infrastructure developments make the timing right. Hong Kong wants and needs a thriving civic space. The project is doable now.

Imagine a DVRC where people take precedent over cars. Air and noise pollution are reduced. Narrow sidewalks become wide boulevards. Walking solutions for the elderly and streetscape improvements for the disabled are enacted. Better signage means it’s easier to get from one place of interest to another. Trees and sitting out areas encourage social inclusiveness. Neglected alleyways become art galleries. “Smart” technology brings innovation to the streets in the way of dedicated delivery trams, free Wi-Fi and historical information kiosks. Public entertainment such as outdoor cinema becomes a reality.

People-centric, liveable cities become magnets where GDP soars. Once the ultimate goal is achieved, there is money for everyone – from investments, from new revenue-generating opportunities, from sponsorships and from event production. It’s a win-win for everyone.

What’s preventing this from happening?

Walk DVRC is working hard to disseminate its message that Hong Kong can do better than the current state of its Central Business District. World-class cities today, the ones that people want to live in and invest in, value human beings over cars and evolve to accommodate the ways in which citizens use their streets and open spaces.

Hong Kong needs to embrace this change and can start with a project that is ripe and ready to happen: Des Voeux Road Central. Walk DVRC has begun an Ambassadors Programme to fund studies that will progress the revitalisation of DVRC. Spread the word!

Comments

Cities without a heart lose their global relevance: The push to pedestrianise Central