Beijing's traffic nightmare

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 28, 2009
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It was reported earlier in the week that the number of cars on Beijing's roads has grown to a staggering 4 million, a jump of as many as 2 million cars in the last two years.

This news will come as no great surprise to those of us who make our daily journeys across the capital city during the "rush hour", negotiating traffic whilst on foot or spending considerable time stuck in traffic on one of the ring roads. Taxis may weave in and out of lanes, but ultimately no one's going anywhere fast.

Of course one does not often have to take a car. The public transport network in Beijing is effective and growing with as many as 13 new lines of the subway under construction to ease the morning squeeze.

But the allure of car and its many benefits seems to outweigh the possibility of traffic to contend with. The Chinese automobile industry is expanding rapidly and is widely expected to be on par with New York City within 5 years. With more Chinese buying their personal vehicle of choice, more must be done to combat the problems of traffic congestion clogging Beijing's main arteries.

Indeed, the problem of traffic is just one of the issues involved in the rising number of cars. Such a growth is likely to have quite the environmental impact.

A recent World Bank poll suggested that as many as seven in 10 of the Chinese population are happy to pay a higher price for energy and other products if it helps avoid an impact to climate change and this would suggest a hike in fuel prices could help.

That said, this is the UK government's approach and, like much of their policy, it is extremely unpopular. Raising fuel duty only serves to limit people's movement and restricts their enjoyment of life, not to mention the impact on businesses.

People the world over enjoy the freedom their car provides and will not wish to give it up, however luxurious public transport becomes. However, an ever-increasing number is taking to the subway to avoid the traffic and perhaps for cities like Beijing, this can help alleviate the current strain on the road network.

Thus, the short-term solution for Beijing's problem is clear: improved public transport infrastructure and better road networks.

Subway routes are being extended, road traffic management through license plates is in place and more roads are being built. A public education course on the rules of the road coupled with stricter enforcement is another idea being suggested. It's quite possible the traffic problem can be eased somewhat in the near future due to these measures.

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