Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beijing out of its haze - Back to the Future

No longer a common sight
"Twenty years ago, four out of five residents in the Chinese capital pedalled to work through  one of the world’s best systems of bicycle lanes."   Beijing's 9 million bicycles are being crowded out & disappearing.  Bike lanes are blocked by parked cars & frustrated motorists seeking to avoid traffic jams.  It is now "The most congested city on earth." 

The number of cars in Beijing has doubled since 2005 & 2,000 more cars are added daily.  4.7 million cars in 2010!  Pending car regulations, have spiked sales to 3,000 per day in Dec.
The Globe's Wheels section points out the fallacy of the auto-centric planning mentality.  According to Zhang Yu, a senior engineer with the Urban Transport Center under the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, “Before 1990 the government was building more and more roads but that was fine because there was a need for those roadways,” she said. “But after that, the more roads they built, the more serious the traffic jams became. So building new roads does not solve traffic jams.

Avg Speed 20kph!
4miles in 2 hours.
"Zhang suggested different classes of tickets on public transportation to attract better-off customers, better bus and bike lanes, and more space for pedestrians. Building more roads was not the answer, she said." 
During the Olympics traffic congestion was reduced.  Cars were banned from roads on alternate days based on an even / odd system and the license plate number.   At some time, the only option is to ban cars or ironically, to make the cost so prohibitive, only the rich of this socialist country will be able to drive.  
Are there any clear days left to see
"[Chinese].... studies show that 60 per cent of the time, people's destinations are less than 3 miles (5 kilometers) from their homes."  Its 57% in Canada!
Drowning in cars, bumper to bumper gridlock and a sickening pall of air pollution blocking the sun, Chinese leaders are now drafting regulations to "encouraging people in the former land of bicycles to revert to pedal power."  The state's next 5 year plan targets boosting  the number of cyclists by 25%.
The haze in Burlington is also lifting as it slowly moves back to the future.  Bike lanes help everyone, including drivers!  Why shouldn't there be bike lanes on Lakeshore Road?  The sooner, the better!

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