Although its attempts to curb car use on World Car Free Day didn’t go so well, Beijing is looking to promote bicycle use through a number of initiatives that could reduce the impact of cars and pollution on the city.
Beijing has long been known as the city of bicycles, but with China’s economic boom and desire for car ownership, there has been a steady decline in bicycle use over the past 15 years. To reverse the trend, the Beijing Commission of Transportation said the nation’s capital has cancelled roadside parking on all auxiliary roads less than nine meters wide, which will be replaced by dedicated bicycle lanes that will be both painted and fenced-off.
Nearly 250 kilometers of bicycle lanes in nine locations will be upgraded, including those on or near the Second Ring Road, Nanluoguxiang and Shichahai area, the Olympic Center, and the Zhongguancun West area.
To ensure the exclusivity of bicycle lanes, law enforcement will be increased against parking in bike lanes and more video cameras will be installed to “enhance supervision”.
Another 50,000 bicycles will also be available for rent by the end of the year with the goal that 18 percent of Beijingers commute to work by bicycle by 2020. Currently, only 12 percent of Beijing residents bike to work, down from 38 percent in 2000.
“In recent years, the quickly increasing number of vehicles in the city have severely reduced the space for bicycles on the road and threaten the safety of cyclists,” said Zhou Zhengyu, chief of the transportation commission. “If we can ensure those car owners switch to bicycling, then we can significantly reduce road gridlock.”
In addition to these new bicycle policies, Beijing drivers face numerous obstacles.
Besides being the most congested city with the worst traffic in China, Beijing drivers are faced with purchasing their car licenses through a lottery system with skyrocketing prices, forced to buy a parking spot before they are allowed to buy a car, and are prone to car restrictions for important international events that limit car use by almost half.