Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Odd-even rule best for Beijing traffic

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-04 07:38

The Beijing municipal government is discussing whether the odd-even license number driving rule should be made permanent. A recent Beijing Normal University report shows that on average a Beijing resident spends 97 minutes traveling between home and office and that frequent occurrence of smog in many cities is threatening public health.

The odd-even plate number rule (or road space rationing) has proved effective in reducing air pollution in the short term - the results were evident during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and last month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.

But many experts say the rule should not be made permanent because it would "violate people's right to drive" as they can drive only on alternate days. There is a misunderstanding here. One person's right to drive a car should not infringe upon another person's right to enjoy clean air and smooth traffic. The very basis of civil rights is that people have to compromise on certain individual rights for the collective benefit of society.

The economic measures proposed by some experts such as auctioning car number plates or charging congestion fees can also be seen as a violation of people's rights. For instance, if the government charges congestion or other fees, it will increase the cost of owning a vehicle and thus deprive some people of the right to buy a car. And since people who live in the suburbs which are not well served by public transport have no choice but to buy a car no matter how high the additional fees are, they will have to bear the extra financial burden without seeing any reduction in the number of cars on the roads.

Besides, many say auctioning of license plates, a practice in place in Shanghai, can only limit the number of private cars because government agencies are still free to purchase as many cars as they want, which is against social justice.

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