You have a short downtown street lined with shops. Would you prefer to have it: a) crowded with Hong Kong buskers; or b) packed with vehicular traffic? Given local street performers’ talent, many of us would be sorely tempted to have the road clogged up with cars and vans.
Such was the unpleasant choice facing Mongkok’s Sai Yeung Choi Street. Karaoke singers and similar menaces were making life unbearable. The only solution is to fill the strip with SUVs and trucks that spew out pollution and force everyone onto cramped sidewalks, thus easing the bongo-drummers and dancing grannies out of the district altogether.
Could someone think of an alternative course of action? The pro-Beijing district council members argued that noise generated by bad musicians damaged businesses, while opponents proposed licensing and regulation of the so-called entertainers.
Most agree that there are only two options: either you have traffic, or you have buskers. No-one dares indulge in dangerous, out-of-the-box, lateral thinking and suggest that maybe we could have some space with neither.
In cities overseas, bureaucrats would not usually consider displacing pedestrians with traffic as a ‘solution’. They would pedestrianize more streets to ease crowding generally. Especially if they found out that this was the most densely populated neighbourhood on the planet.
Hong Kong officials are less wishy-washy. In Asia’s World City, pedestrians are a nuisance, and reopening a street to traffic is ecological restoration.
Now, if you excuse us, we have to remove some ‘gay penguin’ books from library shelves.