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Macau Matters: Walkable City

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image Richard Whitfield

 

The Civic Exchange (www.civic-exchange.org) think-tank in Hong Kong has just published an excellent research report that examines the “walkability” of Hong Kong, and I believe it would be very worthwhile to do something similar in Macau - not just for heritage areas, but also for locations widely used by residents, like the Avenida de Horta e Costa. 

As the report points out, walking is a natural human activity that is essential for maintaining good health and well-being - the biggest item on my personal to do list is to walk and cycle more. Around the world, cities and people are rethinking personal mobility and changing urban landscapes to encourage both walking and cycling and to prioritize pedestrians over vehicles. Average car trip counts and travel distances are also falling in many Western countries, and younger people are becoming less enthusiastic about acquiring a driving license. By contrast walking, cycling, and tele communicating are on the rise. 

In my hometown of Melbourne (which is cited for some good practices in the Civic Exchange report) it has been very interesting to watch the changes over the last 20 years. There have been big increases in inner city apartment living, which greatly reduce commuting distances. There has also been a significant rise in public transport use, and many cycling tracks (often not particularly well done) have been instituted and are well patronized. The most vibrant change has been the huge rise in street-side cafes and outdoor seating, which makes walking around far more interesting and fun. 

The same trends are also starting to emerge in Asia. The rising number of cyclists in Hong Kong and Macau in recent years has been very noticeable, but the car is still king, which is not smart for a place as small as Macau. 

Macau is very compact and most travel distances are very short - often easy walking distance, if the walking routes were comfortable and convenient. People might argue that Macau is too hot for walking, but I don’t accept this assertion. People walked everywhere in Macau from the 1600s until the 20th century without any problem. Also, where spaces are relatively big and shaded and with outdoor seating, such as the square near the Ah Ma temple, they are quite comfortable all year round. Of course, big, bare open spaces are not comfortable in summer, but this is just poor design. 

If you walk around Macau now, especially in the older parts of town, there are many problems for pedestrians - difficult path-finding, lack of at-grade crossings, poor permeability, inconsistent signage and maps, over-crowding, long detours, street obstacles, inadequate universal access, lack of seating, and unattractive street aesthetics. 

Good arguments can be made for further pedestrianizing Macau and re-landscaping the reclaimed street spaces to add trees, seating, and other amenities to the pathways. We also certainly need easier ways for people to walk and cycle across bridges between the Macau peninsula and Taipa. Due to road-works, the road around Coloane island is presently a one-way road; I would actually like to see the section between Coloane Village and the roundabout above the Westin Resort made permanently one-way, and reclaim part of the roadway for a walking and cycling path. 

As well as being good for the health and well-being of Macau residents, making our urban spaces more walker and cyclist friendly would have the added benefit of showcasing this new approach to urban designers. This approach prioritizes people and health, and our tourists can take these ideas back home with them. Just another way for Macau to lead the way in the region. 

 

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Responsible Right of Expression — In the interest of freedom of expression, coupled with a true sense of responsibility to encourage community dialogue, the Macau Daily Times offers its readers the opportunity to express their opinions on new-related matters through this website. All opinions are welcome. However, we reserve the right to remove comments that are deemed to be obscene, or are merely insults written under the cloak of anonymity. MDT