Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Car Free Day

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"BEIJING : Hundreds of thousands of drivers have heeded official calls to stay off Beijing's busy streets for a high-profile summit in what is seen as a rehearsal of 2008 Olympic traffic-control efforts.

Traffic was lighter than normal in this city of 15 million notorious for its traffic jams on Wednesday, as a six-day ban on most government vehicles taking to the road got underway.

At least 490,000 vehicles from the government's fleet stayed in the garage, according to the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau.

At least 250,000 private drivers also heeded the call, aimed at preventing delegates here for a China-Africa Cooperation Forum summit from getting ensnared in traffic, state media said.

Members of hundreds of motor clubs in the Beijing area pledged to stay off the road or minimise their driving during the summit, the Beijing Daily reported.

Fast-modernising Beijing has nearly three million registered motor vehicles, including nearly two million private cars, and the number is increasing by more than 1,100 a day, state media reported last month.

The official Xinhua news agency described traffic in Beijing as at "crisis point".

China, which has been on a recent drive to increase its influence in Africa and its access to the continent's energy resources, is pulling out all the stops to impress delegations from 48 African nations for this weekend's summit.

Huge banners and billboards emphasising Sino-African friendship have been put up around the city for what the Chinese media have hailed as the highest-profile international gathering in China since 1949.

But the Beijing Daily also said this week's traffic measures were a "high-level rehearsal for the Olympic Games".

The measures also include a ban on taxis using the expressway linking the city with its airport.

Chinese authorities have said previously they intend to take short-term measures during the Olympics to ensure the roads are not congested while the Olympic spotlight shines on the city.

Beijing has hinted it may ban some cars from the streets and ration petrol.

A senior official with the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee told reporters last week the city was considering establishing special Olympic traffic lanes and encouraging people to use public transport.

- AFP/ms"

Let's do the maths. It's 645 days to the Olympics. Assuming the number of cars increase at a constant pace, then we will have: 3 million + (1100 * 645) = 3.709 million cars. That's a 24% increase.

How are they going to keep to a Green Olympics?

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