Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Beijing’s new road rules do little to put dent in smog

AFP , BEIJING

Beijing rolled out new traffic control measures yesterday, but they had little effect as the capital’s roads remained clogged and gray smog shrouded the city.

The new measures, which are less strict than curbs used during the Beijing Olympics in August, are aimed at banning the city’s 3.3 million cars from the road for one day a week each, based on license plate numbers.

But Beijing Television Station’s morning traffic program showed the capital’s streets jammed up as usual, while small accidents around the city ensured gridlock on many roads.

As yesterday was the first day of the new system, police were not levying the 100 yuan (US$13) fine for drivers violating the ban. The fines will begin next week, local media said.

The system stipulates that license plates ending with one or six will be banned from the roads on Mondays, plates ending with two and seven on Tuesdays, three and eight on Wednesdays and so on.

The rules, which only apply from 6am until 9pm and do not include weekends, are also supposed to curb air pollution, but Beijing’s normally gray, smoggy sky was on full display yesterday.

Despite the gridlock during the morning rush hour, officials insisted the new rules had improved traffic flow.

“Normally the traffic here moves at between 15kph and 20kph, today it has been moving as fast as 40kph,” a policeman on one of Beijing’s ring roads told state television.

Beijing’s air is among the most polluted in the world, and the problem is getting worse with about 1,000 new private automobiles bought each day by increasingly affluent city residents.

The tighter Olympic restrictions, which expired on Sept. 20, had limited private motorists to driving on alternate days, removing more than 1 million vehicles from the streets each day.

The measures led to unusually blue skies. Authorities said atmospheric data showed Beijing enjoyed its best air quality in a decade thanks to the measures.

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