After a four-day trial in which more than one million cars were banned from Beijing's roads, many people in the capital are calling for the ban to become permanent.
"I would leave my car in the garage forever if the traffic was as smooth as it was during those four days," said He Bin, a lawyer living on the outskirts of Beijing.
"It usually takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive to my office but the bus trip saved me half an hour. I listened to music and read newspapers on the bus," he said.
Most Internet users hailed the temporary ban as a success. "The ban has taken Beijing back to the 1980s when there were no traffic jams. I hope the ban will never be lifted," wrote one netizen, registered as "Burubujian" on an online forum of Sina.com.
About 1.3 million cars were removed from the city roads on August 17-20 to test the effect on air quality for the Olympic Games.
Drivers with even-numbered license plates, excluding taxis, buses and emergency vehicles, were told to stay off the roads on Friday and Sunday or face fines. Odd-numbered cars were banned on Saturday and Monday.
The air quality was "fairly good" during the four-day trial, with the air pollution index standing between 93 and 95, down from 116 last Thursday.
"Everyone dreams of owning a car in China but the trial ban made many people, including me, realize that a country on wheels may not be our dreamland," said lawyer He.
"When I was trapped at a busy junction on Tuesday morning I wished the ban was still in force," he said.
However, very few people have voluntarily stopped driving their cars even though the media has promoted this for years and the idea of a "no-car day" was introduced last year.
"Most car owners still drive cars if they are not ordered to take public transport. If I decided to take the bus, I would still be caught in jams because the private cars are still there," said Li Shaochun, a software engineer.
An editorial in the Beijing News said the temporary traffic ban could solve Beijing's traffic woes during a specific time period but there remained a conflict of interests if the ban was permanent.
The editorial argued that car owners already paid several kinds of taxes to drive their cars so if their right to drive was sacrificed for Beijing's blue sky, they deserved compensation.
Xie Shaodong, deputy head of the Environmental Sciences and Engineering College of Peking University, said Beijing could not cure its pollution troubles simply by restricting cars.
"In the long run, building a fast and accessible transportation network will be a more effective way to improving Beijing's air quality," Xie said.
(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2007)