If you want people to walk, you got to make sure they can sit. At first glance this appears a contradiction, but walkable cities need many places for people to sit.
People and especially elderly are willing to walk further and forego a vehicular trip if they know there is a place to rest half way. It also makes the city friendlier.
Well placed public seats allow people to relax. It creates opportunities for incidental encounters which are important for community building. It makes the city more accessible for people with disabilities.
So how far are you willing to walk? Ever wondered why there are not more seats around our city in public areas?
There are seats in parks away from the hustle and from your walking routes. And sure, there are seats inside commercial establishments as long as you spend money. But which malls have random seats in public areas? Why is it that visitors of the Golden Bauhinia have nowhere to sit except on the kerb and nearby steps? Why is it that so surprisingly few bus stops have seats? Not even bum bars – a form of seating suitable for narrow pavements.
The Highways Department which is responsible for our pavements has no seats in their standards manual. Pavements can be crowded. But with some creativity we can do better. When placing planters the sides can be wider so people can sit. In the Southern District we started to add more seats under our District Minor Works program.
It makes me smile to see how the community has taken matters in their own hand. You can find discarded office chairs re-used along streets, near housing estates and at bus stops, especially along infrequent routes in the New Territories.
Now students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have created a campaign #missingseats which is hosted by Designing Hong Kong. People are asked to post photos (any style) of where they think seats are missing using Instagram, facebook or www.designinghongkong.com using #missingseats and #designinghongkong.
The images and locations will be used to lobby Government, District Councils, shopping mall and transport operators for more seats. Together we can improve our city and make Hong Kong a better place for all.
To see the reports here.