When residents complained the noise from a pedestrianised street was causing sleeplessness and distress, authorities reopened it to cars.
Hong Kong’s Mong Kok area – “busy corner” in Cantonese – is a sea of people, shops and chaotic energy in the heart of the city’s most densely populated district.
Within that, Sai Yeung Choi Street South was the street that never slept. After it was pedestrianised in 2000, the only islands in the sea of people were buskers, singers and dancers, all competing to drown each other out. Commonly known as “noisy street”, you could hear it long before you saw it.
Complaints from residents led the government to restrict the pedestrianisation scheme to weekends and public holidays. Finally, this summer, it was scrapped entirely; after more than 1,000 noise complaints motor vehicles were allowed back 24-7.
With the buskers gone, vehicles are now the noisiest things on the street. The number of people seems the same, though – they’re just squashed onto the pavement to allow the cars through.
“It had become a sort of poor man’s nightclub where competing performers, dancers and karaoke singers were blasting their music at 90-100 decibels,” says Carine Lai, senior researcher of Civic Exchange, an independent Hong Kong public policy thinktank. “To make things worse, there were residential buildings upstairs, so people were complaining of sleeplessness and psychological distress.”