Review on Pedestrian System Design in Tuen Mun New Town

Tuen Mun locates on the western side of New Territories, and in 1967, Hong Kong government approved a comprehensive development plan of Tuen Mun as a new satellite town mainly for residential use. Similar to Sha Tin, Tuen Mun is the first generation of new town in Hong Kong approved by Sir Patrick Abererombie. The design of Tuen Mun new town is largely influenced by Le Corbusier’s Radiant City, and the town is filled up by superblocks with elevated pedestrian walkways connecting each other. The priority of circulation is given to automobiles and pedestrians circulation are regulated by elevated walkways or underground tunnels (Ip, 2000).

Since mid 1970s, the planning and construction in Tuen Mun new town started to involve stronger capitalist mindset. The government shifted the attitude from providing public good towards bringing economic benefits to Hong Kong through land developing(Fujimori, 2014). During that period, the 10 years housing project was launched and various private developers participated in the construction of the new town. Lots of housing and footbridges were built, and as a result, the elevated walkway system in Tuen Mun lacks coherence. The footbridges are of different quality and most of them lack proper management. The footbridges linking Tuen Mun Town Plaza are satisfying, but others are narrow and in poor hygiene conditions, and the styles of footbridges are different (Wong, 2002). (Figure 1 and 2)

Figure1: a footbridge in Tuen Mun without airconditioner. (Wong, 2002)
Figure1: a footbridge in Tuen Mun without airconditioner. (Wong, 2002)
Figure2: a enclosed footbridge equipped with  airconditioner. (Wong, 2002)
Figure2: a enclosed footbridge equipped with airconditioner. (Wong, 2002)

The elevated pedestrian system is controversial nowadays, for it somehow diminishes the traditional street life, In 1990s, the modernization in Hong Kong shifted from building a city to practically using a city (Fujimori, 2014). Therefore criticism arouse on the design of superblocks and elevated pedestrian system in new towns like Tuen Mun. In the some of the drawings of Radiant City, Le Corbusier illustrated the potential use of ground surface to accommodate recreational or social activities (Dunnett, 2000). However, due to the insufficient budget and resources to build the massive housing projects in the post-war period, the ground level of the new town was left featureless (Fujimori, 2014). Moreover, the private developers were progressive in the quantity of construction and showed little respect to the pedestrian culture and street life. In response, the planning department of Hong Kong suggested that:
a. Podiums of private developers are so large that they block the streets and create undesired urban condition
b. Permeability and pedestrian circulation should be improved and commercial activities should be reintroduced to the street in order to create more vibrant street life (2003)

Despite the criticisms, the elevated footbridge system improved the connection and the efficiency of pedestrian circulation in Tuen Mun. For over 50 years, the footbridges are commonly used by residences. In a questionnaire carried out by Wong in 2002, most of the interviewees used the pedestrian footbridges everyday and over three fourths of the interviewees were satisfied with the footbridges.

Reference List

Dunnett, J. “Le Corbusier and the City without Streets”. in “The Modern City Revisited’. ed. Deckker,T. (London: Spon Press. 2000)

Fujimori, R. “High-rise and High Dense Housing: the Transformation of Superblock Develops in Hong Kong, 1970-2000”. in “New Urban Configurations” in New urban configurations. ed. R. Cavallo, S. Komossa, N. Marzot. (Amsterdam, The Netherlands : IOS Press, 2014.)
Ip, H. [葉浩莉]. Planning of pedestrian environment for Hong Kong’s new towns. (Thesis, 2000). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b3198036

Planning Department. “HK2030: Stage 3 public consultation report”. (2002) Retrieved from http://www.plan,gov.hk/planed_en/p_study/comp_s/hk2030
Wong, P. W. [黃培中]. “Streets for people” : towards green transportation in urban Hong Kong. (Thesis, 2002). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b3126095

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