Bulletin November 2018 (Vol. 20 No. 1)

buildings they lead to, as well as whether they are elevated or underground and whether they are located on a hill. The complexity of the task means it has taken them all of the three years to map the whole outdoor pedestrian network and the indoor pedestrian networks from Sheung Wan to Wan Chai, and complete smaller mapping of Sha Tin, which has less complicated topography, Tsuen Wan and Kwun Tong. Mr Chiaradia said they were also collecting information on accessibility, such as the width of pavements and lift access. “We are trying to consider equity issues related to accessibility, which means not just disability but the ageing population,” he said. In that regard, they are working with Civic Exchange and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service on a separate project to study accessibility, called ‘Walking with Wheels’. It aims at finding the best barrier-free routes for people in wheelchairs or with prams or trolleys, and this information is being incorporated into the maps. by the team’s groundwork will lead to a more automated system to update information, such as through crowdsourcing or exploring the use of artificial intelligence. “Walking in Hong Kong is a big challenge. In places like Central, the ground level is narrow and there is not enough space for people to even wait for the bus, there’s barely enough space for people to walk. In particular places and times, you wonder, why should the car have so much space in comparison? The future allocation of street space could be dynamic, balancing people-centred priorities,” he said. “If you want to do research in Hong Kong about the built environment, you need to have this detailed understanding of the pedestrian realm.” “We are creating a digital infrastructure that will be in a way part of the government’s smart city initiative. Most cities don’t have pedestrian maps. If you go on Google, for example, you will get mostly a road network for cars with some adjustments, which might be good enough in most cities yet not in Hong Kong,” he said. Accessibility issues The HKUrbanLab team, on the other hand, with supervision from Dr Guibo Sun, has digitally pounded the pavement and manually recorded all pedestrian pathways and which Potential uses All of the data gathered by the researchers is intended to become as widely and freely available as possible and various means of doing so are being explored. The expectation is that app developers will develop new uses and target audiences for the information, such as services that show the best pedestrian routes from A to B or locations of lifts and public toilets, or potentially coordinating driverless vehicles with passengers. There are also possible uses for this work in the Internet of Things, such as monitoring pedestrians through sensors, detecting obstructions for those walking with wheels, and detecting events of interest to particular users. The data will also be used to feed into further research. Mr Chiaradia expected that the maps could help them collect information on such issues as active living and health, pedestrian congestion which has become a concern in cities around the world, and how to improve pedestrian connections within city networks. It is also hoped that the baseline of data provided footbridges and links between buildings, and it may not always be clear where these lead to. The going is even worse if you are in an unfamiliar area or encumbered by a pram, wheelchair or trolley. Enter Alain Chiaradia, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Design, and his team in the Faculty of Architecture’s HKUrbanLab. The team has spent three years developing a 3D map that shows 21 different kinds of pedestrian pathways, such as stairways, parks, podiums, skyways, underground routes and pavements, that will hopefully address the commuter confusion. Hong Kong has one of the lowest car ownership rates in the developed world, made possible by its excellent public transport system which offers an easy way to get from one part of the city to the other. However, once you arrive at your destination, the going can be far more difficult. The city’s street-level terrains often have topographically challenging, multi-level, congested public spaces, some of which are partly indoors, making it difficult to establish your location even with the use of mobile phone GPS, which is notoriously inaccurate in Hong Kong. There may or may not be Most street maps are designed to get cars from A to B. But now the Faculty of Architecture has an alternative: a 3D map that helps pedestrians navigate narrow walkways and footbridges, and provides a trove of data for app makers. A CITY MAP FOR PEDESTRIANS Most cities don’t have pedestrian maps. If you go on Google, for example, you will get mostly a road network for cars with some adjustments, which might be good enough in most cities yet not in Hong Kong. Mr Alain Chiaradia Hong Kong Island, Sheung Wan to Wan Chai: Central x-ray 3D view of the outdoor and indoor pedestrian network. 35 | 36 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | November 2018 Knowledge Exchange