Designer and Designing magazine features HarbourLoop
An in-depth interview on HarbourLoop: A vision to make Hong Kong a more liveable city
Designer and Designing magazine features HarbourLoop
Designer and Designing magazine features HarbourLoop
Designer and Designing magazine features HarbourLoop

Designer and Designing magazine interviews the Lead 8 team on HarbourLoop - a vision to transform the contours of Hong Kong's waterfront into an iconic 23 kilometre urban cycle, running and walking network. 

English translation of the interview: 

1. What is the vision behind HarbourLoop?

Before we arrived at our HarbourLoop initiative, our team conducted studies and consulted with Hong Kong residents on the context of Hong Kong’s current problems. Lack of urban space and connectivity, lack of an active water’s edge, traffic congestion, the heat island effect and air pollution, all of which have been controversial topics in Hong Kong for a long time, and it is evident to everyone that progress to improve these issues seems to be slow.

As a result of this, we put together a study team to think of ways to improve the quality of life for people in Hong Kong and developed HarbourLoop - a safe, car free network of walking, running and cycling routes, supported by leisure and entertainment hubs and places which can be used by everyone.

2. How are the routes in HarbourLoop selected and considered?

HarbourLoop is designed to follow the contours of Hong Kong’s modern coastal geography so that it stays relatively level for most of the route, is open to ventilation, and is potentially shaded in many sections. We wanted to maximize the use of the underutilised sites along the existing waterfront and create a route that integrates high quality public realm in a continuous journey around the circumference of Victoria Harbour with two major infrastructure interventions that close the loop to the east and west.

HarbourLoop is designed to run from Central along the north of Hong Kong Island, incorporating the Wan Chai waterfront, to the Museum of Coastal Defence near Shau Kei Wan in the east. We have envisaged that a 700-metre pedestrian and cycle bridge connecting to the village of Lei Yue Mun and the hills above, reusing and reconnecting the Kai Tak former Airport site with the rest of Kowloon. For the west HarbourLoop crossing, a new deck could overlook the West Kowloon Cultural District and could be connected to Central by a 1.5km-long, 60metre high cable car.

We also took into consideration the development opportunities for businesses along the route, particularly where the route intersects with offices and existing residential and leisure districts. HarbourLoop also incorporates mixed-use ‘hubs’, self-service bike storage and waterfront restaurants at intervals. The route uses a combination of proposed and existing urban spaces, unused land and elevated sections to overcome major infrastructure barriers.

3. If HarbourLoop is implemented, what will be the major problems and challenges to overcome? How will they be resolved?

Hong Kong desperately needs a Harbour Front Authority with the mandate and the means to implement joined up solutions for our waterfront areas. We see such bodies in other major cities, such as Sydney, New York and London, but at the moment in Hong Kong, 5 separate government bodies have different roles in the waterfront area, and this doesn’t make for an integrated vision. However, we are delighted to see that the current government is on the road to creating such an Authority, and we hope that this will deliver the impetus that is much needed.

Land ownership, land use, models of implementation and delivery, methods of capital raising and ongoing funding, and permission for structures over the water (if needed) are all highly emotive topics these days in Hong Kong. That said, around 70% of the HarbourLoop route is already planned to be provided, albeit not in the scale or type we have envisaged, so in many ways our proposal is to enhance what is already being implemented.

Communication of this plan is also somewhat lacking today, and this is why we have produced a HarbourLoop brand identity; a design which we are happy to bequeath to the Hong Kong people so that a communication and PR campaign can commence to let everyone know what is happening, and what progress has already been made. West Kowloon Cultural District are a successful example of this type of public engagement; and so we would like to see Hong Kong’s Harbourfront communicated in this manner as well, so that Hong Kong’s people can monitor the progress; and see how each step leads to a final vision.

4. If HarbourLoop is implemented, what effects will this pose to Hong Kong’s current traffic condition?

The current Hong Kong environment is still mostly dominated by highways and bus corridors, resulting in severe congestion and a hostile public realm with limited space for pedestrians.

HarbourLoop’s connected urban realm along the waterfront could offer public space for all people in Hong Kong to enjoy and have access privilege to, as well as providing an alternative mode of transport (walking and cycling) for commuters.  

The implementation of this people-focused multimodal network will encourage self-propelled transport modes, and give walkers, joggers and cyclists a dedicated route and facilities to safely move through the city. This will in turn encourage a low-carbon/eco-friendly city where there will be less traffic congestion on roadways, improved air quality, lower ambient temperatures and healthier lifestyles.

5. Will the implementation of HarbourLoop seize the Hong Kong waterfront’s existing resources?

No, the implementation of HarbourLoop will not seize the Hong Kong waterfront’s existing resources, and any new water’s edge activity will still need to allow the remaining commercial and marine activities the continuity of access and position that they may require.

Instead, HarbourLoop is envisioned to activate underutilised land along the existing waterfront to create an urban cycle, running and walking network that provides a new active and passive public realm to make Hong Kong more accessible for tourists, walker, runners and cyclists.

6. Who will benefit from HarbourLoop? How can Hong Kong benefit from HarbourLoop?

Everyone in Hong Kong, including residents and tourists, will benefit from HarbourLoop. Over 1.7 million of the city’s residents will be able to reach HarbourLoop within 10 minutes’ walk.

The 23-kilometre HarbourLoop will connect communities, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, create new open space with restored natural habitats, encourage a healthy lifestyle, provide an easily accessible place to exercise, and create a mobility loop that integrates cycling, running and walking, attracting development along the route and generating significant social and economic impact. HarbourLoop can raise the public profile of Hong Kong in becoming a livable, connected and eco-friendly city.

7. What is the estimated budget to implement HarbourLoop and how will it be funded?

HarbourLoop offers cost effective and climate responsive design. It also supports greater mobility, but offers low carbon options for active travel, free to end users with lower maintenance costs than that of conventional road or highway surfaces.

  • The components themselves are also mostly low cost, low intervention and low carbon, whilst the route offers multiple areas of shade, and is open to sea-breezes through its entire length.
  • The hub activity areas, which contain changing facilities, workshops, retail, F&B and community rooms could easily be constructed from re-used containers, something that Hong Kong has an abundance of.
  • The beacons (cycle parking towers) only require a lightweight frame, easy to construct and at low cost (the Japanese underground version costs roughly HK$100,000 per cylinder for 200 bikes).

Although the HKSAR Government has a very respectable budget surplus, HarbourLoop has potential for mixed funding: crowd-sourced, sponsored, and public funding.

HarbourLoop could easily become self-funding with commercial rent opportunities, and a charging structure for use of some of its facilities. Potentially a cycle hire scheme can also can be mix-funded as shown in many global examples (like the bike hire schemes in London), where the hiring fees are kept relatively low, but still fund the scheme. The cable car idea could also have a charging structure.

8. Why are you interested in getting people cycling and walking?

We want to promote a healthy living lifestyle and improve the quality of life for all in Hong Kong. 

The environmental and health benefits of cycling, running and walking notwithstanding, the bicycle is a more efficient use of Hong Kong’s limited space – we believe there is a pressing need for network modelling of new capacity for these active, self-determined modes of transport.

Many global cities, such as Singapore, London, New York, are developing cycling and walking infrastructures and classifying cycling as a key functional mode of transport – which has proven to be successful in cultivating liveable, vibrant, eco-friendly cities.

As one of the densest country in the world, urban density provides us with an opportunity, and HarbourLoop is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city.

Of course there is the potential conflict with cars and buses, so that is why we have sought to create a public realm loop that does not rely on any shared uses with regular road traffic; HarbourLoop is envisaged as both continuous, and pedestrian friendly.

9. What do you hope to achieve?

We would love to see HarbourLoop become a reality.

At the very least we want to start a real debate on making Hong Kong more enjoyable for people, and more accommodating to zero emission modes of transit infrastructure in Hong Kong.

We hope that HarbourLoop can play its part as one component of an integrated plan to improve the livability of Hong Kong and help our city recover its status as a truly world class city.

Click here to view the full article (in Chinese).






14 January 2016


Posted by Lead 8


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