The number of private cars is soaring by more than 1,000 each day in Beijing, municipal traffic authorities announced Thursday.
According to the Beijing Municipal Communications Commission Deputy Director Liu Xiaoming, the amount of private automobiles had surpassed 1 million in the capital as of last month.
Meanwhile, authorities are devoting more efforts to improving the city's traffic conditions and have achieved some results.
Of the 84 intersections listed by Liu as sites often seeing traffic jams, 19 have been renovated over the past four months and have allegedly become smoother in terms of congestion.
Another 26 places, including the Anzhen Crossover in the northeastern Chaoyang District and the Sitong and Lianxiang crossovers in the western Haidian District have also seen traffic jams alleviated to varying degrees, Liu said.
In addition to those measures, authorities are busy perfecting traffic rules.
In accordance with a draft regulation soliciting public opinions this week, motorists in their "internship" are allowed to drive only on the far right lane for motor vehicles on main roads, giving more road resources to other vehicles.
Legislators explained that the term "intern drivers'' referred to those possessing a driving license for less than one year.
As private car numbers are surging rapidly in Beijing, the number of new drivers on the roads is also on the rise.
A report from the Beijing Times said that motorists who had been driving for less than three years had triggered 46 per cent of all kinds of accidents on the roads.
However, the draft limitation inflicted on new drivers seemed to ignore some important facts, and thus encountered strong opposition among residents discussing the issue online.
Comments to the www.beijing.gov.cn website included discussion about the safety implications for new drivers when driving in the congested right lane, which is often occupied by buses, bicycles and pedestrians.
Other visitors to the website simply said the regulation violated the rights of new drivers.
Another item from the 127-clause in the draft states that a 5 yuan (60 US cents) penalty will be imposed on pedestrians crossing roads on a red light or without using designated crosswalks, overpasses, underpasses and other facilities specifically designed for them, as well as several other minor wrongdoings.
Other misdemeanors affecting pedestrians, such as standing in vehicle lanes or flagging down taxis outside of designated sites, may involve fines up to 20 yuan (US$2.40).
This has also generated hot debate.
Quite a few netizens who claimed they were motorists held the punishments levied on violating pedestrians as being too meager to teach them a lesson.
As well, many questioned why motorists are being forced to bear more than half of the blame in car accidents involving pedestrians who may have been totally to blame.
Those who left comments on the municipal website demanded that those violating traffic rules which led to accidents be held totally responsible.
The draft will be open to public comment on the Internet for a month before a public hearing is staged by the municipal People's Congress next month to discuss the issue.
No timetable was given as to when the regulation will be legalized.
(China Daily May 14, 2004)