This Is Beijing On ‘Car Free’ Day
Despite the Chinese government’s efforts to encourage public transportation usage on World Car Free Day on 22 September, traffic congestion still plagued major roads in Beijing. According to data collated by the Beijing Transportation Commission, the traffic performance index (TPI) reached 8.6 at half past eight in the morning, which indicates heavy congestion; vehicles moved at an average speed of only 21.3kph. The condition at the Second Ring Road was worse, at 9.6 TPI and an average vehicle speed of 16.8kph.
With the new school year and holidays (Mid-Autum Festival and National Day) occurring during the month of September, it is usually the most congestion-ridden month in the city.
To alleviate traffic and reduce air pollution, the city government has been promoting World Car Free Day since 2007. This time around, the Beijing Transportation Commission had announced that it would improve public transport service, extend service hours and expand bike rental services. However, it is clear that these efforts were insufficient.
Chen Yanyan, a council member of the Beijing Urban Planning Society, believes that public awareness is not the solution, but more concrete measures are required. She said, “Public transportation is still less attractive to city dwellers than cars.” Presently, most buses and subway trains in Beijing are packed, and road conditions are dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.
“The authorities should make more efforts to improve public transport services and increase the cost of using a car, such as charging a traffic congestion fee,” Chen added. In 2013, 32.7% of Beijing residents still relied on cars for transportation, on the rise from 23.2% in 2000. By early 2012, there were more than 5 million auto vehicles in the capital alone. In an effort to curb personal vehicle growth, four new subway lines in Beijing are scheduled to be operational by year-end, extending the network to more than 500km, one of the world’s longest.
The number of cities in China that participated in the Car Free Day had increased to 154 this year, which covers about 200 million residents. But on that Monday, local media reported that many major cities – including Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hefei – still suffered extreme congestion.