A sudden interest in traffic


Bans against looking out of the window. Xi Jinping in a Zhongshan suit standing through the sunroof of his ugly Hongqi limo. Apparently monozygotic thousands of soldiers marching against fascism. Peace-promoting nuclear missiles capable of hitting Hawaii. The South China Morning Post’s owner Robert Kuok in his own paper, patriotically bewailing the Opium Wars and the Kempeitai. For those of us suffering an overdose of this surrealism, the perfect antidote: Hong Kong traffic…

A week or so ago, some former civil servant proposed banning trams from Central to reduce traffic congestion. This was before yesterday’s display of history-warping militaristic overload, so it seemed shocking and bizarre. It was hard to tell if the guy was serious, and afflicted with a bad case of Post-Retirement Serving-the-Community Disorder. Or maybe his submission to the Town Planning Board was intended as satire – the bureaucrat’s equivalent of piece of Banksy street art. Either way, he sparked off some major chatter…


Some background on illegal parking here and – all in the SCMP today – here, plus this and this on the subject of cutting traffic in Central. And it’s not only columnists, the police WellingtonStreetseem to be joining in, suddenly writing out more parking tickets. This is usually such a rare sight that you photograph it; the example here was last weekend (note that the usual line of illegally parked cars has mysteriously vanished). There has been a noticeable recent increase in traffic enforcement in Central’s streets, with police motorbikes and vans parked menacingly in several illegal-parking spots.

The flurry of interest in this issue offers officials an opportunity to do something highly unusual and bold: listen to what people are saying and take the initiative to deliver. In other words, the exact opposite of the Avenue of Stars/New World/collusion screw-up.

This sounds mightily naïve. Cynics will say that the transport/retail lobby will veto moves to ban commercial vehicles from Central during daytime, and tycoons or quasi-tycoon buddies of our officials will howl in protest if their luxury cars are similarly barred. There are people out there who insist in all seriousness that bus services should be cut to free up space for their Mercedes.

On the other hand, the situation is getting critical. The de-facto policy of allowing illegal parking is now encouraging drivers to double-park, to hold up traffic while lingering for a vacant space, to occupy bus stops, and to occupy sidewalks, and (according to a cop on the radio a few days ago) they reduce visibility and thus endanger pedestrians. Something has to change at some point simply in order to avoid gridlock. Or major loss of patience – I can’t be the only one temped to kick these assholes’ wing mirrors off. Which brings us to ‘rule of law’. The Liaison Office-government is contorting due process to make examples of student protestors, while car owners genuinely occupy Central with impunity. If only a pro-democrat politician had the wits to make something of this hypocrisy.

There are only so many entitled, selfish and arrogant screw-everyone-else vermin you can stuff into a given physical space, so eventually something has to give. I declare the weekend open with the scintillating thought that, after the private car owners, it’ll be the turn of… golfers.


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14 Responses to A sudden interest in traffic

  1. Docta G says:

    More signs of strain. I recommend five minutes of Korean tourist rage. You’ll be out by Xmas.

  2. KwunTongBypass says:

    Unfortunately you-all over there in Central only have your narrow Central view: Go to any commercial or industrial area, and you will find total chaos, with BMs and Mercs (the bosses cars) parked permanently in loading/offloading spaces, and trucks double and tripple parked next to them, to do their (legitimate) loading business. And why FedEx is allowed to have a major distribution center on Wai Yip Street, along a major artery causing chaos every evening between 5 to 8 beats my mind!

  3. PD says:

    If you describe anything associated with our celestial president as “ugly”, you’ll have RTP on your back.

    Out here in the sticks, we manage very well with not a single traffic warden in living memory. True there’s a lot of tyre-slashing and staring matches on single-track roads, but there’s no speed limit or need to get a licence.

  4. Nimby says:

    Two of the proposals in the SCMP & HKFP won’t work.

    Raising fixed parking fines to a level that won’t cause the middle class to riot isn’t going to dissuade the worst offenders, most of whom anyway employ drivers to stage moving road blocks (or have tags that clear proclaim they don’t give a rats ass). The former make roadblocks that skip up slowly down the block when wardens show up and then circle around behind them. Even if they occasionally get a ticket at 10 times the current rate, it’s just water off the pack of a duck — and it would not surprise me if the foul cargo occasionally seen in the back takes the parking fine out of his/her driver’s packet.

    Setting quotas won’t work either, because they too already exist and are ineffective. That just drives the HKPD to take it out on those least capable of hitting back, the independent tradesmen & smaller transport companies. The HKPD already has a nice scheme where they top off their quota quickly by hitting the weekend parking out in Mai Po Marshes, Taimeituk, Brides Pool, etc; where they are sure to catch mostly middle class car owners on their one day out with the family, and not those with power. These fellows just role over, they have no chance to harangue Comm. Lo Wai Chung at Beas River or Hong Kong Golf Club to punish certain patrolmen who forgot to align their interest with the oligarchy.

    However the not too intelligent reporters at the local media will help bray for these ineffective measures as they are so easily manipulated — pre-typed story from government or industry sources, a few quick changes/edits and article fee collected, now off to find some cheap booze.

    Those who write the rules are unlikely put them against their self-interest, unless they are a moron like Canada’s current PM, who is climbing up his own petard to firmly pant it between his tightly clamped cheeks. Our local morons don’t seem quite as stupid, or are just so ineffective they can’t hurt themselves.

  5. reductio says:

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who had he seen that jerk-off car plate would’ve walked down the side fumbling for my key and …oops!…that’s a nasty scratch. Seriously, I’d have done it.

  6. dopey says:

    The worst of the “foul cargo” typically makes the driver pay for parking, parking fines, and the cost of any accident (shouldn’t lose the no claim bonus you know).

  7. bunko8 says:

    Excellent parade. Not a mention in the Western media of the 20 million Chinese deaths the Japanese inflicted between 1937 and 1945, though. All they barked on about was how this parade will unsettle its neighbors.

  8. nulle says:

    HK Police could just dock driver points (ie 2 points/double park violation) or hold the violator in place, slap a wheel boot on the double park vehicle, then impound the vehicle for 30 days…

  9. Probably says:

    @reductio, my sentiments entirely. Can we not devise a quick, easily scratched character that can be used to mark illegally parked cars? Otherwise we will just have to follow the sensible option and introduce road pricing.

  10. Nimby says:

    Mayhaps Sit Kwok-keung is playing a slick game. Complaints about parking would achieve nothing, but threaten the tram… Even the DAB is up and out.

  11. LRE says:

    One way to reform parking fines to penalise repeat offenders: just double the fine for each subsequent offence. The exponential growth rate of the fine makes it not worth it even for the likes of Li Ka Shing quite quickly (with the current weedy $320 fine, a fifth offence would cost you $5,120, 10th offence would be $163,840 — good luck taking either of those out of your driver’s wages and keeping the driver). You could possibly reduce the fee down one level after a year of no offences, to throw motorists a small bone of hope. But I’d start the bidding at the same fine as smoking in a public place as it’s about as annoying and probably more dangerous: $1,500.

    Going the way of London’s surcharge for all non commercial vehicles in crowded parts of the territory is probably a good plan too (and if we’re banning uber for being unlicenced taxis, we should definitely define all alpha tards and company-owned vehicles that are only carrying passengers non-commercial).

    Because frankly in a place like Hong Kong owning a private car is a bit like gun ownership in the States: there are no actual valid reasons for having one, only bullshit excuses for why you want one.

  12. Nimby says:

    Strange, I wanted to post a comment with links to scmp.com and HK Governments press site, but your filter software claims my links are spam and refused to let me post. I know both sources are pretty crappy, but to claim they are spam is going a bit too low.

    Anyway, just a little bit of research on Eddie Ng’s two faced dealings, so probably not all that news worthy anyway.

  13. nulle says:

    @probably, there are ways to mark cars like using waterproof chalk or pen to mark the tire (ususally white)

    docking driver points should be good enough to because points rack up quickly requiring either drivers to care OR the boss to hire more drivers…

  14. Probably says:

    @nulle. Thanks for the suggestion. The character I would be looking to inscribe would be the Chinese one for a*****e.

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