Gallery: Beijing to Eliminate Gridlock by Cutting Vehicle Registrations...


Gridlock in and around Beijing, China is a huge problem — earlier this year a traffic jam outside of the city stretched for 60 miles and lasted ten days. Fortunately, the Chinese government is about to take some huge steps to try to curb it — they’ve just announced that in 2011 a license plate lottery system will be imposed on new vehicle registrations and the total number of new registrations allowed will be roughly 1/3 of the 2010 total of 700,000. With the total number of vehicles registered in Beijing up to 4.76 million from the 2005 high of 2.6 million, it looks like limiting vehicles will be good for the city’s gridlock — and pollution — situation.

Though the city is specifically targeting the congestion problem, we’re happy that this new strategy will help limit the air pollution problem in Beijing. The air quality in Beijing can be dangerously poor, and with about 1,900 new cars registered every day in 2010 it was on the road to getting worse. Air pollution levels in the city are consistently above what the World Health Organization considers safe — this article from a PRI reporter living in Beijing highlights the city’s air quality problem.

The number of cars in Beijing has grown quickly as urbanization and modernization progresses,” noted Zhou Zhengy, deputy secretary-general of the city’s municipal government, upon the announcement. “This has caused severe congestion in some downtown areas, especially at rush hour. Decisive measures shall be taken to control traffic in Beijing. Otherwise, the congestion will only get worse.” Zhengy is right – congestion will get worse, and this latest measure — though it will probably be very unpopular with new car owners that aren’t granted registration — will surely help curb the unyielding multiplication of gasoline-powered cars and the problems they cause in Beijing. Hopefully, it will drive people toward mass-transit and less environmentally harmful ways to get around.

Via Autoblog Green


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  1. jperrykelly January 3, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I’m as much for personal ‘rights’ as the next guy. However, I draw the line when ‘civilized’ society expresses its freedom by wrecking the environment.

    America and Americans are not the center of the universe; ditto for our species. Nor does mankind’s current generation have the right to rob future generations of climatic conditions able to foster a nurturing, joyful relationship between humans and Earth. Nor do we have the right to visit suffering and extinction on other species through our refusal to change or face unwanted facts.

    Chaji makes an excellent point. By its nature, democracy calcifies the status quo. Special interests with the means to affect public opinion through advertising, or by framing their agendas as part of the worldview debate, wield the power to stymie change…indefinitely.

    Likewise, Chaji’s observations regarding Hitler and Western Europe were spot on. Prior to WWII in the thirties, Germany’s rapid militarization and Hitler’s rant made Nazi intentions perfectly clear. Yet, France and England did virtually nothing to hinder its progress or take effective precautions. If not for the English Channel and Atlantic Ocean, all Europe and possibly the U.S. could be speaking German today.

    Think about it. Public opinion kept us out of WWI and WWII for years. Americans chose to ignore Nazi brutality and Japanese atrocities (in China) for the sake our undisturbed lives. We only entered WWII after Pearl Harbor served as our wake up call.

    In Climatic Change, we don’t have the luxury of being able to wait until reality slaps us in the face. If we do, the war will be utterly lost.

  2. marco345p January 3, 2011 at 12:52 am

    well i have been living in beijing for 9 years now, and i saw the dramatic increase of cars on the streets. Of course, getting so many new cars on the road everyday is a problem for a city that is still developing, thus lacking many road infrastructures: one of the major problem creating so many jam in beijing is paradoxically the lack of roads.. Beijing is full of big large roads (it would be called city highways in europe), but in very limited numbers: 5 city ringroads (the 6th one is in the countryside for now), and few east/west, north/south connections, and almost NO small roads (big blocks of “commnities” block the way everywhere, forcing you to go on the big connection roads, highways and ring roads). a second problem is the design of the road network itself, that allows cars to enter and get out of the highways at exactly the same spot, which creates jams by itself, as soon as a bus or a car does not give the way to the other one (which happens all the time, and creates accidents). another problem is the law (which is changing now) forcing you to stop where you are when you have an accident (would it be right in the middle of the way, or at an entry exit point) waiting for the police to make its way to you (most of accidents here are minor collisions). the recent development of the subway (from 2 lines 9 years ago to about 12 lines now) has given a great opportunity to pedestrians who want to travel without a car, but it is already saturated at pick hours.

    the problem of beijing’s pollution is certainly created by cars (as most industries were closed down before the olympics, but as there are no viable replacement for cars, and knowing that owning a car reflects personal success here, the only way to reduce pollution will be to give up oil based engines… (dream?) and for the jams, it may be less noisy and smelly in the future thanks to new engines, but it will still remain if roads are not thought of as a city wide network..

    by the way these new measures created an increase of car sales last month… (about 30 000 new licenses were given in december)

  3. chaji January 3, 2011 at 12:05 am


    You’re what we call a “democratic fundamentalist”, i.e. someone who’s internalized certain aspects of modern Western political rhetoric that they have become, in of themselves, the ultimate goals of any political system, perhaps even of life.

    Could a Western-style democratic country have resisted Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg? Could it have transformed itself from a backward country with a literacy rate of approximately 5% to an industrial and military power even the US has to fear, all within a couple of decades?

    France and about everywhere else on mainland Europe failed the first point, while just about every country in Latin America and Africa failed the second.

    In fact, the non-democratic organization of the Chinese government allows it to try out different implementations of democracy as well as experimental economic policies within small “test” communities, with the better-performing ones applied later at a national level. Would you expect to see this surprisingly successful procedure in action in the West? Again, probably not.

    You, as well as anyone else, should keep in mind that environmentalist policies do NOT serve to improve the living standards of anyone in any society. In fact, they nearly always involve reductions in living standards.

    Rather, such policies serve to soften the “fall”s, if you will, that occur when a vital resource inevitably runs out, or when the environment is damaged beyond a certain critical point. Pain and suffering are an unavoidable part of this process, because the entire modern human civilization is built around the consumption of relatively easily accessed non-renewable resources and the careless destruction of the environment. Old habits die hard, especially when said habits have brought us prosperity and pleasure without fail for hundreds of years in the past.

    Perhaps this would explain the existence of anti-global warming conspiracy theorists and the abiogenic petroleum origin theory? After all, it’s always easier to turn a blind eye toward a stormy forecast, and go on pretending that things will always be as they have always been. Regardless of nation or culture, energy conservatism will always be the dominant ideology of the public. This is simply human psychology, no amount of public education can ever hope to change it.

    It must be recognized, therefore, that the governments around the world have the common duty toward the survival of the human species, regardless of public opinion. To do so, there simply isn’t a way to avoid reductions in the rights of the governed, because their interests are necessarily violated in the process.

    As for the government abusing the excessive powers bestowed upon them, well, let’s just say that the French people probably preferred the rule of Robespierre or even Napoleon to the destruction of France.

    No, it’s not an easy choice, and yes, the future is bleak as hell. But the sins of our excessive past have caught up with us, and nature isn’t willing to let us go without at least teaching us a lesson. The only real advice the world needs now is “man up” and “buckle up”, because it’s going to be a long and difficult uphill battle from here on.

  4. galestar December 30, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    This is NOT to be celebrated. I’m all for reducing the pollution that China produces, but this is not the way to do this.

    Could you imagine if this happened in a Western country? Any politician that suggested such a thing would never be able to run for office again.

    Environmental initiatives need to take the economy and people’s rights into mind as well. This is merely avoiding the problem.

  5. JPerryKelly December 30, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    It will certain promote Chinese eagerness to develop green solutions to personal transportation. If the U.S. did this (and our politicians survived), the outcry for affordable bio-friendly cars would shatter the fossil fuel stalemate.

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