China's biggest city plans to ban bicycles from all major roads next year to ease congestion brought on by a wave of private car ownership, official newspapers said yesterday.
Police will also raise fines tenfold for such cycling infractions as running red lights, Shanghai Daily reported. Such measures aim to "control the number of bicycles on city streets," it quoted police official Chen Yuangao as saying.
The proposed ban, which extends restrictions already in place, has already met with protests by some officials and members of the cycling population, the paper said.
"Bicycles are an environmentally friendly means of transportation that should not be banned," the paper quoted Zhao Guotong, an official of the Shanghai Economic Commission, as saying.
Shanghai should instead "take firm control of the increasing numbers of private cars," Zhao was quoted as saying.
Shanghai, with an urban population of about 20 million, has some 9 million bikes, the paper said. Numbers of new cycles in the city grew by 1 million this year, it said.
Bicycles were long kings of the road in China, hailed by the country's leaders as the perfect proletarian transport: cheap, efficient and egalitarian. Like other cities, Shanghai, which boasted some of China's earliest bicycle factories, set aside special bike lanes on main roads and built bicycle parking lots outside offices, schools and public buildings.
In recent years, though, Shang-hai has developed into a center of China's burgeoning auto industry and growing affluence has spurred private car buying.
Numbers of private vehicles in Shanghai nearly doubled to 142,801 at the end of last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The figure is expected to top 200,000 by the end of this year, according to Shanghai media reports.
That accounts for only a small percentage of vehicles on the road, though: Private automobiles are outnumbered six to one by busses, taxis, government cars, and commercial vehicles, according to the official newspaper Liberation Daily.
Police cited the need to control two wheelers as the key to reducing gridlock, accusing them of ignoring traffic lights and occupying vehicle lanes.