Long-term measures urged after 4-day traffic ban

Updated: 2007-08-22 15:39

BEIJING -  After a four-day trial in which more than one million cars were banned from Beijing's roads, many people in the capital are calling for more permanent measures to be introduced.

Even-numbered vehicles pass a major thoroughfare in Beijing. [Xinhua] 

"I would like to leave my car in the garage forever if the traffic is as smooth as it was during those four days," said He Bin, a lawyer living on the outskirts of Beijing.

"It usually takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive to my office, but the bus trip saved me half an hour. I listened to music and read newspapers on the bus," he said.

Most Internet users hailed the temporary ban as a success. "The ban has taken Beijing back to the 1980s when there was no traffic jams. I hope the ban will never be lifted," wrote one netizen, registered as "Burubujian", on an online forum of Sina.com.

About 1.3 million cars were removed from the city roads each day on August 17-20 to test the effect on air quality for the Olympic Games.

Drivers with even-numbered license plates, excluding taxis, buses and emergency vehicles, were told to stay off the roads on Friday and Sunday or face fines. Odd-numbered cars were banned on Saturday and Monday.

The air quality was "fairly good" during the four-day trial, with the air pollution index standing between 93 and 95, down from 116 last Thursday.

"Everyone dreams of owning a car in China, but the trial ban made many people, including me, realize that a country on wheels may not be our dreamland," said lawyer He.

"When I was trapped at a busy junction on Tuesday morning, how I wished the ban was still in force," he said.

However, very few people voluntarily give up driving their cars even though the media has promoted the traffic ban for many years and the idea of a "no-car day" was introduced last year.

"Most car-owners still drive cars if they are not told to take public transport. If I decided to take the bus, I would still be caught in jams because the private cars are still there," said Li Shaochun, a software engineer.

An editorial in the Beijing News said the temporary traffic ban could solve Beijing's traffic woes during a specific time period, but there remains conflicts of interests if the ban is put in place permanently.

The editorial argued that car owners already pay several kinds of fares to drive their cars so if their rights have to be sacrificed for Beijing's blue sky, they deserve compensation from the government.

Xie Shaodong, deputy head of the Environmental Sciences and Engineering College of Peking University, believes Beijing can not cure its pollution troubles by simply restricting cars.

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