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Beijing's Private Autos Top One Million

Beijing's private automobiles now number 1.065 million, according to statistics released Tuesday by the city's traffic department.

The number of automobiles newly registered between January and April stands at around 78,000, up 43 percent from the same period last year.

And the city's total number of registered automobiles is 1.758 million, of which 559,000 are private minibuses.

Along with the rise in private auto ownership comes a drastic hike in the number of people sitting driver license tests.

Between January and April, 90,000 people sat driving tests, up33 percent from the same period last year. By the end of April the city had 2.814 million licensed drivers.

Analysts say that China's soaring auto purchases not only indicate the country's huge buying power but also poses a new challenge in building transport infrastructure.

They also point out that the road-user flexibility of the "bicycle era" must soon give way to the disciplined "automobile era", which means both cyclists and drivers must learn to obey traffic rules.

Despite China's tag of "Bicycle Kingdom" because it boasts the world's largest bicycle population, there is now a huge demand for buying cars.

A survey of 150,000 urban families across China by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that 26 million, or 20 percent of China's urban households, intend buying a car, equal to the annual global automobile output.

(Xinhua News Agency May 22, 2002)

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