How to take cars of the road in China

After decades of unprecedented growth in car ownership, Chinese cities are struggling to discourage driving to deal with air pollution. At a World Bank conference, the efficiency of past and future measures have been discussed among Chinese and international experts.

ChinaFile reports that Shanghai was a pioneer when it comes to regulating car ownership. In 1986, the city introduced a bidding system to allocate a limited number of new car licenses. Efforts by cities such as Shenzhen to limit new car license plates at 100,000 a year will have a positive impact in slowing future growth in car sales and pollution. But the measure does little to curb existing environmental impact related to the 295 million cars said to be on China’s roads.

Beijing started setting quotas for car ownership in 2011. The city introduced a lottery system for new licenses and succeeded in dramatically limiting the number of newly registered vehicles each year.

New measures that are under consideration are raising parking fees for cars as well as levying fees for using roads during rush hour, similar to London’s congestion charge. A possible solution could be to ban old, polluting trucks from the roads. Offering alternatives through public transport is high in the list of China’s cities, but the simplest of all solutions discussed is the return of the bicycle. A comeback of the bike may not work everywhere – in Harbin the climate is considered too cold for biking, while Guiyang and Chongqing are considered too hilly. But is definitely is a solution in warm Kunming, where the government has set up bike parking opportunities at bus and metro stops to accommodate the city’s 1.8 million bikes.

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