Driving restrictions will continue in Beijing for another year starting next Monday, with small changes to make it easier on residents, Wang Zhaorong, spokesman for the municipal committee of communications, told a press conference yesterday.
Starting Monday, April 13, cars with number plates ending in 0 or 5 will be taken off roads on Monday, while those ending in 1 or 6 will be banned on Tuesday, 2 or 7 on Wednesday, 3 or 8 on Thursday and 4 or 9 on Friday. The ban does not apply on weekends or holidays.
According to the new rules, private cars will be banned within, but not on, the Fifth Ring Road from 7 am to 8 pm. Previously, they were also banned from driving on the Fifth Ring Road from 6 am to 9 pm.
The committee estimated the new rules will take 930,000 of the city's 3.6 million vehicles off the road each weekday and increase driving speed by 10 percent, Wang said. In the previous trial, speed increased by 14.7 percent on average.
"Beijing's air quality is getting better," said Li Kunsheng, head of the vehicle management section of the Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau, adding that the daily vehicle emissions fell by 375 tons, or 10 percent.
However, while people without cars tend to support the ban, many motorists oppose it.
"I believe the ban will only drive many rich people to evade the restrictions by buying another car. It is just unfair for people like me, who bought a car because I live too far from the office and want to waste less time on buses, but can't afford a second one," said bank worker Chen Tao. Others said the ban won't cure traffic woes.
"Drivers and pedestrians should all be instructed to strictly follow the traffic rules. This is the best solution to traffic problems," said college teacher Ye Ruozhou.
The banned driving dates will rotate every 13 weeks. The ban expires on April 10, 2010.
Wang said government and corporate vehicles will continue to be banned around the clock based on plate numbers, but it does not apply to emergency vehicles, mass transit vehicles or public service vehicles.
Li expects air quality to improve further thanks to a ban on heavy polluting vehicles that fail to meet the European No 1 standard for exhaust emission within the Fifth Ring road starting April 11.
Previously, such high-emission vehicles were only banned within the Second Ring Road.
The measures are expected to jointly make the daily vehicle emissions to fall by 750 tons, or 20 percent, said Li.