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Beijing Goes (Reluctantly) Off-Road

China Journal –Juliet Ye – October 10, 2008, 7:14 am

Beijing’s private car restrictions are set to go into effect tomorrow, in an effort to bring back the days of clean air and more peaceful street’s the bustling city enjoyed during the Olympics. Naturally, many of the city’s road warriors aren’t happy about it.

Under this new restriction, which covers the heavily metropolitan area surrounded by Beijing’s Fifth Ring road, private cars with licensed plate numbers ending with a 1 or 6 can’t be on the road on Mondays. Those with 2 or 7 as the last digit are banned on Tuesday, 3 or 8 on Wednesday, 4 or 9 one Thursday and 5 or 0 on Friday. On weekends, all cars are allowed on roads.

The restrictions follow bans earlier this month on the number of government and corporate vehicles, a popular measure among Beijingers. But the restrictions on private cars are “unfair,” say many drivers in polls and online. An unscientific online survey on the Web site of the People’s Daily, the state-run newspaper, 68% out of 400,000 voters said that “it’s pointless to ban private cars.”

Web users packed online forums and listed reasons to “say no” to restrictions on private cars, and major web portals are hosting forums for people upset with the new regulations.

Netizen “endless99″ made a comparison between the subway maps in Beijing and several other cities, including Hong Kong and London. The person concluded, “The ban can only work out the traffic problems temporarily. Mature metropolitans such as Hong Kong and Tokyo all have well-served urban public transport system.” (The post in Chinese.)

One Web user wrote a blog post, titled “We Are Extremely Upset About the New Restrictions,” that the restrictions discriminate against those in the suburbs.

“How about those out of the Fifth Ring circle? We all paid the same amount of tax. It’s really unfair,” the user said, adding, “who is going to pay for my taxi?” (The post in Chinese.)

Others are unhappy with the lack of proper administrative procedure in getting the restrictions out. In an online poll on, 93% out of 6,000 people participating said “the restrictions on private cars should have been deliberated by the National People’s Congress before it went out.”

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