China's love affair with cars chokes air in cities
In Beijing alone, the number of vehicles has increased to 5.18 million from 3.13 million in early 2008, Xinhua reported Monday.
In a bid to limit the number of cars, the city has adopted a license plate lottery system and stopped a fifth of cars from driving into the city on each weekday under threat of fines. To get around this car owners sometimes remove their license plates to avoid monitoring cameras or buy second cars.
Vehicle emissions are compounded by a lack of effective public transportation, low emission standards and the slow development of energy-saving and clean automobile technologies, the Asian Development Bank says in its environmental analysis of China.
Beijing’s wide avenues and underpasses that stretch across eight lanes of traffic don’t allow pedestrians to get anywhere in a hurry. The city’s subway system is overwhelmed with passengers, there are long walks between lines and its stations don’t always link up with bus stops.
‘‘Public transport should really have been prioritized but we need to understand that if you want to build up a new public transport system then you have to plan and design the city the right way,’’ said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.
China should learn from cities like New York and Hong Kong, he said.
Gao, the subway driver, can’t think of anyone he knows who doesn’t have a car. He and his wife, who sells subway tickets, worry about the health of their 1-year-old in the worsening pollution.
‘‘My dream is simple,’’ he says. ‘‘To live in a warm apartment, drive a car I like and have a healthy child.’’
AP researchers Fu Ting in Shanghai and Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.