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Bicycles Can Save Beijing
The move encouraging more residents and visitors to ride bicycles in Beijing has attracted much attention and dispute.

"In order to help curb air pollution, Beijing will adopt administrative measures to encourage people to ride bicycles," said a special plan on environmental protection in the Olympic Action Plan, which was issued earlier this month by the organizing committee of the 2008 Olympics.

The plan did not reveal details of the future measures.

Special bicycle routes will be built in the Olympic Village by 2008 with bicycles provided, the plan also said.

"Aiming to help fulfill Beijing's commitments to the International Olympic Committee on environmental protection, the provision is also based on the reality in Beijing," said Wang Kai, director of the department of comprehensive planning at the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection which drafted the plan.

"Bicycles will continue to be the main means of transport for Beijing residents in the coming years although the number of private cars has increased by a large amount," Wang noted.

According to statistics issued by the Beijing Transport Development Research Center, the rate of bicycle use continued to top all means of transport including cars and public transportation over the past five years.

The numbers of bicycles in Beijing has continued to increase over the past few years, reaching 10 million by the end of last year.

Wang said bicycle routes will not only be formed in the Olympic Village but also the Olympic Green. The layout on routes will be decided in the next two years, he said.

Bicycle lanes will continue to be drawn on city streets, said Chen Jinchuan, a researcher with the center, a think tank for the municipal government.

Li Wenhua, dean of the school of environment studies at Renmin University of China, agreed with Beijing's decision to push bicycles and he said he hoped the government could make bicycle usage more convenient through various measures, such as creating more bicycle parking lots and renting locations.

But many also oppose the push for more bicycles.

"It is not in accordance with the regular pattern of transportation development," said Yang Tao, 33, a Beijing resident.

Yang also said that while bicycles are practical in small and medium-sized cities, it is not practical for people to travel in such a big city by bicycle.

"Although many people have their own bicycles, it does not mean they will always ride bikes to work, shop or conduct other daily activities," Yang said.

Yang said the government should make better use of economic levers such as price and taxes to encourage the development of motor vehicles instead of giving orders.

Meanwhile, the Beijing municipal government also encouraged more use of bicycles.

"I am sure Beijing's action will play a demonstrating role in the industry's development," said Sui Songjiang, secretary-general of the China Bicycle Association.

China continued to be the world's leading country in bicycle production and consumption as the output of bicycles in China reached over 50 million last year. Chinese bicycles were also exported to over 100 countries and regions.

(China Daily September 20, 2002)

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