The controversial impact of pedestrian guardrails on road crossing behaviours. Evidence from Hong Kong

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156–172
Number of pages17
Journal / PublicationUrban Design International
Issue number2
Online published18 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


Pedestrian guardrails (PGs) are common in high-density cities, but growing debate focuses on whether PGs provide pedestrian comfort and assure safety. The quasi-experimental condition, created by 2019–2020 Hong Kong protesters dismantling PGs the government later restored, allowed for a longitudinal study of how PGs impact pedestrian crossing behaviours at the intersection of Mong Kok Road and Sai Yeung Choi Street South. 6762 pedestrian behaviours were collected through video recording from periods before and after PG restoration; psychological factors linked to crossing behaviour were further investigated through a questionnaire. Per observations, crossing through the shortest route comprised most (25.24%) aberrant behaviours. PG restoration significantly reduced low-risk crossings but increased high-risk behaviours. Specifically, people aged 65+ were more likely to cross the road aberrantly to avoid grade-separated pedestrian crossings. The questionnaire results (N = 205) suggest pedestrians feel ambivalent about PGs. Taking shortcuts was the main reason for pedestrian misbehaviour (85.8% agreement rate). Additionally, pedestrians relied more on internal judgements of traffic situations than on external controls. Noticeably, PGs provided feelings of safety, despite not being designed to protect pedestrians from straying vehicles. These findings could inform designs for safe, comfortable pedestrian environments.

Research Area(s)

  • High-density city, Longitudinal observation, Pedestrian crossing behaviours, Pedestrian guardrails, Walkability