September 22nd marks the first annual “No Car Day” in China, a national campaign hoping to reduce exhaust emissions and ease traffic congestion by limiting the number of private vehicles on the roads. Over 100 cities in China will participate, leaving residents to travel by foot, bike or public transportation. In Shanghai, a third of the city’s vehicles will be ordered off the roads and private cars will be banned from driving through areas of downtown.
In 1994, authorities in Shanghai began auctioning license plates to limit the number of vehicles in the city, but the number of cars in the city continues to rise despite rising costs (one license plate recently sold for RMB 47,000, US$6,200). While it will be hard to limit the cars on the road outside of the specified downtown areas, officials remain optimistic about No Car Day. “We hope everyone in Shanghai will contribute a little for more environmentally friendly living conditions,” said city government spokeswoman Jiao Yang.