How walk-friendly destinations Colombia and Singapore can inspire Hong Kong planners - South China Morning Post



How walk-friendly destinations Colombia and Singapore can inspire Hong Kong planners

Walking is perhaps the best exercise in the world. It is believed that we can improve our physical and mental health, burn more calories, refresh and energise our mind just by walking 30 minutes a day.

However, a 2019 survey by the World Green Organisation found most Hong Kong people were generally not fond of walking. The reasons were varied: walking is time-consuming, the weather is unsuitable, and comfort (people prefer being able to sit on public transport).

Hong Kong's record-breaking high temperatures, coupled with the humid climate, do make walking under the scorching sun unbearable. To promote walking, we have to begin by improving the walking environment.

Developing underground spaces like in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan is one of the possible solutions. According to a paper by the Legislative Council secretariat in 2020, there were studies on underground space development in Hong Kong over the past few decades.

In 2015, there were studies on the feasibility of developing underground spaces in Tsim Sha Tsui West, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley and Admiralty/Wan Chai; for Tsim Sha Tsui West, there was even a plan to build a five-storey facility for diverse community uses under Kowloon Park.

Sheltered walkways and green corridors could be another solution. Singapore has launched a Walk2Ride programme that connects residential and public facilities to major transport networks. Sheltered walkways provide shade for pedestrians going to schools, healthcare centres and public amenities within a 400m radius of subway stations and within a 200m radius of bus interchanges and Light Rail Transit stations.

Medellin, Colombia's second largest city, has planted over 350,000 trees and shrubs since 2016, creating 30 shaded green corridors, reducing the city's temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius and improving air quality at the same time.

In Hong Kong, while we have planted more than 360,000 trees in urban areas in the past decade, green corridors are not commonly found.

To promote walkability, city planners should formulate a holistic strategy from a multilevel perspective, for the underground and above.




Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong