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Playing fast and loose: DB residents voice concerns over road safety

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After a spate of recent road traffic incidents in Discovery Bay, residents are voicing their concerns and urging action. Jane Wood looks into DB’s road safety situation.

Peter Crush has been visiting Discovery Bay for over 30 years, and has lived here since 2004. A current member of the Discovery Bay Passenger Liaison Group, Peter has noticed a spike in the volume of traffic on our roads over the last few years.

“The legal rules which permit goods vehicles to enter through the tunnel link are being abused,” he opens. “The vehicles are supposed to enter only when they are supplying goods and services by third parties, however the owners of these vehicles are using them primarily to carry in passengers.”

As well as concerns about private cars, 10-year DB resident Laura Dean (not her real name), who agreed to speak out on the condition of anonymity, also considers buses to be a big part of the problem. “There are now more internal bus routes than ever – for example the 9A, and many of the school routes – plus additional external routes, for example to the Auberge,” she says. “There are also more charter buses, and the amount of construction related traffic has increased.”

While City Management (CM) rules clearly state that private cars are banned in DB, vehicles with LGV registration are permitted to enter for specific business purposes, such as delivering goods, between 9am and 6pm. Stays should last for a maximum of two hours, with over-stayers being subject to a fee.

Although there are some exceptions to this rule – for example government vehicles, emergency services vehicles and certain contractors who may request advance approval to remain in DB beyond the two-hour time limit – CM states it is keen to enforce these restrictions.

“Drivers of external vehicles are required to display permits on the windscreen of their vehicles for inspection. Residents could help by reporting promptly to CM if they witness any inappropriate vehicles entering DB,” says Kenneth Chan, senior manager at Discovery Bay Services Management.

Reduce speed now

In addition to increased traffic volume, irresponsible driving is also a concern for many residents. “Drivers on the external bus routes are under immense pressure to keep to their timetables, and I’ve often seen hire cars speeding and overtaking dangerously,” Laura notes. “The construction vehicles that travel up and down Discovery Valley Road also often travel scarily fast!”

Asked what measures are in place to deter speeding, Kenneth states: “Daily speed checks are conducted by our security staff at various locations, in particular along the main road, at different times. Drivers found speeding (including bus company employees) will be warned. We also liaise closely with the police requesting them to do likewise, and they do sometimes conduct road speeding checks.”

With speed limits already in place, residents are asking what more can be done to encourage drivers to slow down. “The only solution is a full-time traffic police presence within DB to carry out enforcement,” says Peter.

At a more basic level, Peter concedes that the implementation of speed cameras is a non-starter, unless the police change their policies for the whole of Hong Kong. “CM cannot carry out private prosecutions using speed cameras, for many legal reasons, and the police will not accept evidence from privately-owned speed cameras,” he says.

Peter would like to see limited use of speed bumps in village areas, although he believes these would not be practical for main roads as they can create technical problems for buses, as well as passenger discomfort.

In the longer term, Laura is hopeful that improvements to DB’s infrastructure will ease the situation. “The roads were not built to sustain the current amount of traffic – they are by no means wide, and are in terrible condition,” she says. “The current development may eventually lead to better conditions.”

Abiding by the rules

Meanwhile, all of us can do our bit to improve safety levels on our roads. Laura refers to what she perceives as a lack of common sense amongst both golf-cart drivers and pedestrians, who can be lulled into a false sense of security by DB’s theoretically ‘car free’ environment. She feels that ‘golf carters,’ in particular, need to start taking DB’s roads a little more seriously.

“Some golf-cart drivers are guilty of, for lack of a better word, sheer stupidity!” Laura says. “Drink driving is considered socially acceptable by many here. I’ve also witnessed texting whilst driving, people driving with babies or dogs on their laps, and the dangerous overloading of carts. If you wouldn’t do it in a regular car in your home country, what makes you think you should do it here?”

Recalling a recent incident, a close call for the student involved, Laura also cites reckless pedestrians as being a danger to themselves and others.

“I watched as two buses were waiting to turn off the main road onto Marina Drive, and a golf cart was coming down the hill from the opposite direction,” she says. “A young student, maybe Year 4, was standing behind the buses (she had no view of the opposite side of the road). Throwing all caution to the wind, she suddenly sprinted across the road – the poor golf cart driver looked scared to death, and had to brake desperately to avoid hitting her. I spoke to the girl afterwards but there was no awareness or remorse; she acted like it was all some big game.

“We all need to be more aware of road safety before there is a very serious accident,” Laura adds.

So while CM is urged to redouble its commitment to curb the influx of private vehicles and combat speeding, it seems we should all be doing our bit to make DB a safer place to live.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on road safety in DB. If you have any stories to tell or suggestions on how the situation could be improved, make them known on the Around DB Facebook page.


Image: Andrew Spires

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