Wan Chai Road, located in one of Hong Kong’s busiest districts, is where pedestrians are most at risk of being involved in a car crash, a local urban design advocacy group has found. It urged the government to impose lower speed limits on streets in densely populated areas to systematically reduce the risk of collisions.
A total of 350 pedestrians lost their lives in car crashes in Hong Kong between 2015 and 2019, according to statistics compiled by civil society group Street Reset, which launched the Hong Kong Traffic Injury Collision Database on Thursday.
The organisation – founded in 2020 by a group of transport and urban planning practitioners and students – said they decided not to refer to car crashes as “accidents,” on the basis that most traffic collisions were “preventable.”
They wanted to prompt a change in attitudes towards road danger, the group said, and not portray traffic-related casualties as “something inevitable or beyond control as though nobody was at fault.”
The newly launched database contains information on traffic collisions that happened in the city between 2015 and 2019, which the advocacy group obtained from the Transport Department through multiple requests under the Code on Access to Information.
Government data showed that 16,243 pedestrians were injured in collisions reported in the five-year period. Among them, 3,703 were killed or seriously injured. While only 19 per cent of all collisions involved pedestrians, they accounted for more than half – or 57 per cent – of the total number of deaths linked to car crashes.
Street Reset used the “hot zone methodology” and identified 790 zones in Hong Kong that had a noticeable number of car crashes. Most were located in areas that had a high population density and pedestrian flow.
Researchers identified 10 areas with the highest number of car crashes per kilometre and found that Wan Chai Road – namely the section between Heard Street and Burrows Street in Wan Chai – was where pedestrians were most at risk. There were 21 collisions involving pedestrians along the 86-metre-long stretch of road between 2015 and 2019.
The hectic commercial and residential district Wan Chai was also home to another collision hotzone – Johnston Road at the junction of Spring Garden Lane – which saw 19 crashes on the 118-metre-long road during the study period.
Elderly pedestrians were said to be most at risk, as the group found that 61 per cent of the 350 pedestrians killed were aged 65 or above.
Comparing the collision locations with road classifications from the Lands Department, Street Reset found that 71 per cent of car crashes involving pedestrians happened on or at the junction of secondary roads such as side streets and connectors between main roads.
Street Reset said they hoped the database could help people understand the severity of traffic collisions in Hong Kong, as well as draw attention to how street design played a part in those incidents and the systematic remedies that could be implemented to improve the safety of road users.
“While our pedestrian safety is considered above average in comparison to other developed cities, we believe that it can never be acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when travelling within the road transport system,” the group wrote in a report released on Wednesday.
They called on the government to adopt a “Safe System Approach” when designing streets in Hong Kong, in order to create a “forgiving street environment” where the severity of car crashes caused by “human mistakes” and related casualties could be minimised.
They suggested adding more formal crossings at convenient locations, as well as enforcing a lower speed limit of 30 km per hour – compared to the current ceiling of 50 kilometres per hour – on inner streets and at roads near “sensitive land uses,” including schools, healthcare facilities and community centres. Vehicles travelling on streets in populous areas, on the other hand, should be limited to 40 kilometres per hour, the group said.
Such a measure has been widely used in other major cities around the world, Street Reset founder Justin Yim said, including London, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, New York and Sydney.
The reduction in speed limit in London resulted in a 42 per cent decline in casualties, while Singapore, which introduced a “Silver Zone” scheme to offer added road safety infrastructure for the elderly, reported a 75 per cent drop in collision rates involving senior pedestrians, the report read.
The authorities could also install more physical structures, such as raised tables and road bumps, to manage vehicle speed, and put in place kerb build-outs and gateway features around junctions to deter illegal parking and ensure pedestrians and drivers could see each other clearly.
Other recommendations from the group included imposing visibility standards on all medium and heavy goods vehicles to make sure they are equipped with designs or devices that allow drivers to see or monitor blind spots.
The Transport Department should also consider setting up a map-based database showing the geographical pattern of where collisions happen, in order to improve data transparency, the group suggested.
“While we recognise that the government has made substantial progress in reducing pedestrian casualties, much more still needs to be done systematically to achieve better safety conditions, contributing to a truly walkable environment,” the report stated.
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