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New Olympic traffic restrictions announced
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Zhou Zhengyu (M), deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications and Du Shaozhong (R), deputy director of Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection attend the press conference about traffic restrictions to be imposed during the Olympics and Paralympics in the city Friday, June 20, 2008. [Photo: Xinhua]

By Sapna Maheshwari
China.org.cn correspondent reporting from Beijing

Most Beijing vehicles will only be allowed to operate on alternating days from July 20 to Sept. 20 to reduce air pollution during the Olympic Games, city officials announced at a press conference Friday afternoon.

Cars with odd-numbered license plates will operate on one day while those with even-numbered license plates will operate on others. The "odd and even numbers" policy was used successfully during the 2004 Games in Athens, and represents the second phase of the traffic restrictions the city will soon implement.

City officials said they believe the new traffic restrictions will reduce pollution by 63.8 percent and that they will cut down Beijing's 3.29 million cars by 45 percent.

The first phase of traffic restrictions will start July 1 and end July 19. During this time, high emission vehicles or "yellow-tagged vehicles" will be banned entirely from the roads and 30 percent of vehicles owned by state and city authorities will be removed from the roads. The city encourages motorists to avoid using their cars during this time but it is not mandatory.

"The government will play a leading role by taking more government vehicles off the road," said Zhou Zhengyu, deputy director of Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications.

During the second phase, in addition to the "odd and even numbers" policy, the city will continue to ban yellow-tagged vehicles and create Olympic lanes for specially-designated cars. More government cars will be taken off the road and officials said that at peak times, their presence will be reduced by 70 percent. Officials promised that they would increase the number of city buses and increase public transportation hours to accommodate the changes.

Transportation tax breaks and road charge breaks will also be offered to Beijing motorists who abide by the new rules, which will cost the government about 1.3 billion yuan, about US$191 million.

City officials said they are "confident" that the plan will be successful, especially since similar plans were successfully executed during the China-Afirca Cooperation Forum in 2006 and the air-quality assessment period during 2007, when up to 42 percent of citizens.

"The Beijing citizens have been very supportive of our traffic control measures," Zhengyu said.

The new restrictions seek to "ensure the sound operation of the transport network and good air quality, as part of the effort to fulfill Beijing's promises in its (Olympic) bid," according to the press release issued at the conference. The city also said they encourage a "green Olympic games."

Exceptions to the restrictions can be found at the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications at www.bjjtw.gov.cn.

(China.org.cn June 21, 2008)

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