I dislike footbridges on principle, because they represent an abhorrent, machine-like view of the city: cars here, pedestrians there and never the twain shall meet. The city is reduced (like the Internet) to a series of tubes through which different modes of transportation travel as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s soul-destroying.

But in a city as crowded and densely-populated as Hong Kong, I have to admit, footbridges do have some advantages. Though the motive behind their construction is still reprehensible — let’s get those people out of the way so that cars and trucks can go faster — they inadvertently create another layer of urban space where pedestrians have free reign. As a result, footbridges begin to mimic the atmosphere of a lively street, with protest banners, musicians, touts and (if the police are looking the other way) hawkers.

In Wan Chai, the busy footbridge leading from the MTR station to the office district north of Gloucester Road is popular with Falun Gong protesters. In Central, the footbridges around Exchange Square are filled with Filipina women on Sunday; the footbridge that links the MTR with the ferry piers is where someone named Law Fong writes bilingual treatises on the topics of the day and pastes them to the bridge’s pillars.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Tuesday April 13 2010at 02:04 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Public Space and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Footbridges”

  • C. Szabla says:

    Beyond the lively pedestrian culture they sometimes generate, I’m not sure grade separation as a concept is all that bad to begin with. What is necessarily more ‘soulful’ about intersections where people cross in front of cars?

    The most insidious thing about footbridges (or worse, dimly-lit underground passageways) has always been that they force pedestrians to make arduous climbs while cars get to move at grade (Shanghai has installed escalators on some, but that solution won’t work everywhere). I feel like road underpasses and flyovers are probably more pedestrian-friendly by comparison.