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What makes a street enjoyable to walk on?

 All over Europe and in some cities in the US, I find many excellent streets for walking. — and its finally becoming clear to me why so many streets in Asia and Hong Kong fail this test so completely. The street in the picture is in Zurich; it’s not a famous street; I don’t even remember its name. At first glance, it may seem to have many things “wrong” with it:  Narrow sidewalks, partly cobblestone (try that with heels), no awning for shelter from the rain, no retail presence to liven up the way, and buildings sheer up against the sidewalk, making the sidewalk seem smaller than it is.

But actually I found this street a pleasure to stroll down.  Why?

First is the feeling of complete openness. There is no railing and the curb is very thin.  You almost blend into the street. And although it takes more “attention” to walk on a street without a railing, in exchange for paying attention, you become more aware of your surroundings, to great reward.  You start to notice the texture of the buildings, the lampposts, doorways and gates.  You appreciate what is there.

Could a railing do all that?  I’m convinced it’s the first step.  Not only is it the removal of a barrier.  But it is also that in Hong Kong, railings are the first encroachment of private agents onto public property.  Because a railing is not just a railing. In Hong Kong, they attract all kinds of crap – advertisements, trash piles, mops and hair salon towels out to dry, chained-up delivery buggies.  In Hong Kong, companies and people latch onto a railing as if its space to be conquered.

So, yes, I’m in search of walkable streets in Hong Kong.  I can’t go to Zurich, or Paris, or Budapest, every day. And yet I love to walk on streets.  If you know of any gems in Hong Kong, please tell me about them!


One comment on “What makes a street enjoyable to walk on?

  1. worm212
    March 8, 2012

    Have you been to the area around Tai Ping Shan Street (above Hollywood Road) in Hong Kong? It is quite pleasant to walk around there. Hopefully there won’t be drastic changes in that area in the near future.

    In a way I understand where you are coming from, but on the other hand, streets are different in different cities and places, and they are all unique. If a street in Europe is very similar to a street in Asia, then the quality of that street may not be so unique after all.

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This entry was posted on March 4, 2012 by in Europe, Relax, See.
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