One of the things that I still can’t wrap my mind around is how the absolute chaos of millions of people pouring into the streets of Hong Kong can be tamed simply by the way the city’s design. Despite the narrow, overpopulated streets, the city is surprisingly pedestrian-friendly. The flow of traffic is controlled by structures that were methodically designed to filter vehicles onto various streets to avoid clogging up the main drags. Footbridges are used mainly to keep pedestrians off the big roads so speed of traffic can be maintained for themost part. As a pedestrian, you can arrive at the Central station harbour via ferry from the mainland and take a footbridge to get yourself a good few blocks up into the centre of the city without even having to cross a road. The footbridges are covered to shelter pedestrians from the frequent impromptu downpours, and are also equipped with escalators to get up/down from the street level. I suppose when it is 42 degrees and you’re wearing a business suit, you need to minimize every bit of walking as possible!
At one point, I caught myself stuck in the centre of a web of footbridges, not quite knowing where to go next. I looked over the edge to try and see where I was from the street…no good. All I saw were taxis, cars, motorbikes, small buses, double-decker coach buses, wooden trams and trucks. The only thing missing was a train – I was waiting for one to emerge from underground and come barrelling down the road along with all of the other vehicles. There are so many different options to get around this city, it’s almost ridiculous.
The famous mid-level escalators are truly genius. Around Des Voeux Road, the terrain suddenly spikes upwards and the city is at a steep incline for about 800m. Unless you’re wearing hiking shoes and have a towel to wipe off your sweat, this trek to and from work on foot everyday is hardly desirable. The mid-level escalators take you all the way up the incline of the city as they wind through narrow streets, in so tight of a space sometimes that you feel like you’re about to get dropped off on someone’s living room couch! Every 50-70 metres or so, the escalators break to allow people to spill off onto flat ground and allow others to come on. Some can enter directly from office building, and others off the street.
There was a lot of construction in the city during my short visit, and I was anxiously anticipating my next visit to see the finished product!