by Xinhua writer Huang Xin
BEIJING, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- More than 400,000
Beijingers have joined an online discussion about whether to keep a pre-Games
Nearly half of them supported a permanent car
restriction -- an alternating odd-even license plate system from July 20. While
the others, mostly car owners, opposed.
Clear air, clean water and safe food, among all other
good things, left local residents with not only an "exceptional" Olympics but a
keen concern about the Games' "green legacy" which featured blue skies.
"I support a long-term car restriction. We have made
some mistakes in the past. Now we should correct them and return blue skies to
our children," wrote a netizen named He Luzhu in the forum on www.ynet.com, the
portal site of Beijing Youth Daily.
Air pollution and jammed traffic emerged key problems
in 2001 for Beijing's bid to play host the 2008 Summer Olympics, said Sun
Daguang, vice secretary of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee.
The host city's seven-year efforts to minimize
pollution were highlighted by the relocation of a gigantic steel company, and
the car ban that rested nearly 2 million, or one third of the city's vehicles,
as taxis, buses and other public-service vehicles were exempt.
"The sky was high and blue during the Olympics. It's
so much better than those foggy days," said a repair worker surnamed He, who
took 4 to 5 hours every day riding a bicycle to visit his clients.
PAIN EASER OR PERMANENT
People who opposed a long-term car ban argued it was
a pain easer rather than a permanent cure.
"Only after the government makes great progress on
improving public transportation should we discuss whether to keep the car ban. I
love blue skies very much. But I had to drive a car because I could not stand
packing in a bus for six hours a day," said an anonymous netizen.
Official statistics showed the city's roads were
extending at an annual rate of 3 percent while the number of vehicles was
increasing at about 15 percent per year.
"When cars run at low speeds in traffic jams, they
emit way more pollutants and usually consume more oil," said Hao Jiming, a
member of Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Many people who had expressed annoyance over giving
up their cars for blue skies are intensely scared of returning to days of
choking smog and rush-hour congestion when the restrictions end after the
The Beijing traffic authorities have admitted
receiving many submissions from car owners, saying they were comfortable with
the odd-even number system and hoping it would last.
The city would continue to improve its public
transport service by expanding transport networks while keeping fares low after
the Olympics, said Zhou Zhengyu, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal
Committee of Communications.
"We aim to create a more convenient and comfortable
environment for people traveling in the city," he said.
The car ban might be a cure for congestions but not
necessarily the best one, said Yang Kaizhong, an economist from Peking
He argued there were a variety of methods such as
charging for causing congestion and raising parking fees which proved effective
in some foreign countries.
For local government, challenges remained mainly in
One was how to effectively restrict vehicles owned by
governments and state companies, and develop shuttle bus schemes as
alternatives. Some people had suggested to mark those "official" vehicles with
distinctive signs to differentiate them from private cars.
The other was to maintain the prolonged subway
service hours and increased trains and buses, and meanwhile continue building
For citizens, the biggest challenge could be the
transformation of ideas. Driving a car would probably save one some time but it
would cause many other problems that would do harm to the mass. People would
eventually understand their individual interests were not in conflict with
Last but not least, the car owners would have to
overcome the impulse to drive, which, some say, would be a test for them who
were usually labeled China's "middle class".