Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Owning the road

This is always sad. I am actually surprised that there are not 100's of people killed by being run over in Hong Kong every year.

I find that the drivers and pedestrians are equally to blame.  The pedestrians here, especially the elderly simply do not look. They will attempt to cross the street at the worse place in very busy traffic. I can understand them not wanting to climb the stairs to get to a pedestrian bridge but I wonder if their life is worth the risk of crossing the street?  It is also true that the drivers here are awful and seem to be getting worse.

When I first moved here late last century I used to ride my bike on Hong Kong Island. I'd always try to get behind a China Motor Bus or a commercial vehicle because they'd protect me from Mr. Tycoon-want-to-be who never looked, never slowed down and drove like he was the only person, not mention vehicle in a 100k radius. But boy, the delivery trucks have gotten dangerous. That's odd because the traffic isn't really any worse than before just the drivers that make up the traffic. The mini-bus drivers are the worst!

I also put part of the blame for this on the Bloody British who did not have the foresight required or care enough to begin building roads that would handle the traffic into and out of particular areas. They should have either built wider roads in places like the Mid-Levels or restricted the amount of development there to what the roads could handle. But no, they allowed 60 story residential buildings to be accessed by a two lane country road with no shoulder and no way to widen the road because there is another 60 story tall building on the other side. I guess there is a measure of blame for the idiots who purchased flats in 60 story tall buildings serviced only by a two lane road. But that is another post for another time.

However, in Sheung Shui the roads are fairly wide and straight because the new towns in the New Territories are better laid out than the Island. This driver was simply speeding and the mother didn't look.

It would help if the police here would actually stop people for speeding once in a while. We used to live on Pok-Fu-Lam road and the drivers there regularly seemed to double the speed limit. I never saw a cop with a radar gun there.

When it comes to motor vehicles the government seems to have a really schizophrenic policy of building roads to promote use and taxing drivers to prevent use. Honestly, they need to take a position. Are they going to make Hong Kong like Houston or L.A where cars are King or are they going to make Hong Kong like New York with the great mass transit system? It is really impossible to do both. Until they do one or the other they will continue to have more than their fair share of horrific pedestrian vs. motor vehicle accidents. Holy Cow! I've been to Mexico City and it has better traffic laws than Hong Kong.

Police and criminologist will tell you that traffic fines should not be used as a form of government revenue but if the police simply started issuing tickets for speeding and reckless driving here the income tax could be abolished. I don't see any difference between that and the huge surtax they put on automobiles and gasoline. In any case, the government needs to restrict the routes that heavy vehicles can use and the times that deliveries can be made. There is no way that this truck should have been allowed on that road, in front of a school at that time of day.  But in Hong Kong the government cares more about the driver being able to deliver a ton of toilet paper to Wellcome or Park-n-Shop, than a four-year old boy and his mother crossing the street.

That's a shame but that is the way it is.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who does not drive in Hong Kong

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