Skip to content

CityLab Daily: Hong Kong’s Much-Hated Pedestrian Fences Won’t Die

Also today: Here comes the lab space land rush, and how a cruise ship spread Covid to the world.

Barriers and a road sign formed a barricade on Pokfulam Road during a protest outside the University of Hong Kong last November.

Barriers and a road sign formed a barricade on Pokfulam Road during a protest outside the University of Hong Kong last November.

Photographer: Justin Chin

Fenced in: During recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, demonstrators accomplished something that residents had been demanding for years: dismantling some of the city’s 1,500 kilometers (over 930 miles) of pedestrian railings. Citizens have long complained that the ubiquitous metal barriers are obstructive and that they make skinny sidewalks even more narrow. But those complaints have fallen to deaf ears, as the city is spending an estimated HK$15 million ($1.9 million) to rebuild and reinforce the destroyed fencing.

The move underscores Hong Kong’s continued adherence to outdated transportation guidelines drawn up by the U.K. in the 1970s — when the city was a British colony — and reluctance to adopt more progressive planning policies, reports Sheridan Prasso. “In some respects, the state of pedestrianism in Hong Kong is a window into the forces that fueled the unrest of 2019, as well as the recent crackdowns on dissent and political expression that resulted,” she writes. Today on CityLab: In Hong Kong, the Pedestrian Fences Are Political