Thursday, November 16, 2006

Trouble on Kennedy Road

I have done some poking around the old papers on Kennedy Road to satisfy the curiosity of our redoubtable reader, Stubbs, who asked about the old mansion that Sir Gordon Wu wants to knock down (amongst many other buildings) to create his 2,000 room Mega Tower Hotel in Wanchai.

While I have not yet tracked down the past ownership of the building, I did stumble across the 'ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat', Hemlock, of course, talking about Sir Gordon's vanity project. He referred to Kennedy Road as "a road designed for rickshaws." Indeed, he is correct inthat it was not meant for real traffic, and even rickshaws were banned. In 1883, a regulation was made by the Governor to the effect that:
1. No wheeled Vehicles or Horses shall be allowed on the Promenade known as Kennedy Road.

2. In no case shall more than two Chairs be allowed to go abreast on this road.
There were evidently problems with people and/or other sedan chairs, borne entirely by sets of 2, 4, or 6 profusely straining coolies (depending on the obesity of the occupant), knocking each other over. They hadn't thought of everything, though, because Governor Bowen added this regulation to the mix in 1887:
3. No kites shall be flown from this road.
One can only imagine the horror and tragedy.

All of which draw attention to the fact that the road was certainly not meant for heavy traffic. Certainly, Sir Gordon's building of over 2000 rooms on that road would be rather a major burden added to congestion in the area. His suggestion that at peak morning hours, only 6 trips by car for every 100 rooms would originate from the hotel's entrance on Kennedy Road was rather... optimistic.

* Update *

This regulation was finally repealed in 1898 after some widening of the road, but only for rickshas and such:
1. The regulations made by the Governor-in-Council on the 20th day of May, 1887, are hereby repealed.

2. In no case shall more than two Chairs be allowed to go abreast on Kennedy Road.

3. No kites shall be flown from Kennedy Road.

4. Wheeled vehicles will be allowed on Kennedy Road. The expression "wheeled vehicle," as used in these Regulations, shall mean a ricksha, bicycle, tricycle, or other similar machine, and a perambulator or other similar machine.

5. Wheeled vehicles must go round the bends of Kennedy Road at a moderate speed.
So, rickshas were alright, but not if they went too fast. And flying a kite on Kennedy Road was still out, as was having a sedan chair race!

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