For many foreigners, the roads in Beijing are very dangerous with fast moving traffic, abrupt braking, and notorious drunken driving.
However, one thing that seems to be more dangerous is riding a bike in this city. Beijing was once known as the capital of bicycles, and there are currently about 13 million bicycles.
Every morning, at a crossroads near my home near the Fourth Ring Road, cars invade bike lanes and as a result, some cyclists are forced to perch on the curb to wait until the cars pass.
Even for those cyclists who wait behind the lines for the green light, they are constantly urged by car horns from behind, which seem to be saying: "Get away. I want to make a right turn," because making right turns at the red light is legal in most of crossings in Beijing.
When the green light is flashing, cyclists need to be careful too, because they may run into by cars coming from the other direction. If you are not swift enough, you will be stuck in the center of the crossroads until the light changes again.
And all this does not even take into account the exhaust fumes from crawling cars on the road.
It seems the situation is just getting worse. In the past six weeks, more than 10,000 cars have been added to the roads in Beijing every week and the city is expected to have 4 million cars at the turn of this year, as reported by METRO. The city is now rushing toward a title of The Capital of Automobiles.
Kevin Mo, a senior sustainable building specialist with the US National Resources Defense Council, said bicycle and public transport are two of the most effective ways in building a low-carbon community.
In the winning blueprint for the expansion of CBD in Chaoyang district, the architecture firm named bicycles as the preferred mode of transport and said bike lanes would be created between the office buildings.
However, a green Beijing fundamentally requires awareness of governments and citizens about green transport such as bicycles. When Beijing is talking about being environmentally friendly, both the Beijing government and Beijingers should prove they mean it.
To this end, governments should not further squeeze bicycles to give space to cars, just because the car industry creates a lot of jobs and brings in taxes.
When new roads are built, governments should also take bicycle lanes into consideration, as the CBD plans to do.
Traffic authorities also need to take action to find the best way to solve congestions, rather than keeping a blind eye to infringements on the rights of bicycle-riders and pedestrians.
Last but not the least, car drivers should also understand following traffic rules and respecting cyclists and pedestrians in congestions is in the best interests for them too. The reason is simple: when everybody follows the rules and does not think they are special, the traffic will be much smoother. It's time to educate people in Beijing that the capital of automobiles is a dubious distinction and they should work together to make their city green.
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(China Daily 10/28/2009 page26)