China grapples to reduce cars in congested Beijing

BEIJING Wed Dec 8, 2010 2:43pm IST

A traffic jam is seen on Jianguo Road during rush hour in Beijing, August 4, 2010.  REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

A traffic jam is seen on Jianguo Road during rush hour in Beijing, August 4, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee/Files

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Having raced to the top ranking as the world's largest car market, China is now scrambling to find the brake pedal as the flow of new cars bring traffic-jam misery to the streets of the capital, Beijing.

China's latest plan to tackle the jams, and get to grips with about 2,000 new cars coming onto the capital's roads ever day, includes higher parking fees and an appeal for people to choose jobs near their homes, media reported on Wednesday.

Longer-term, Beijing -- with a population of about 19 million people and more than 4.5 million vehicles -- will build more subways and put more buses on roads to boost public transport.

"We encourage people to work nearby (their homes) to decrease their outing demand from the very beginning," media reported, citing a newly released Beijing social development plan covering the next five years.

People will also be encouraged to ride bicycles.

China, the world's second-largest economy, overtook the United States last year as the world's biggest car market and now has 199 million motor vehicles, with 20 million being added every year, according to government figures.

But its economic success now means China is faced with the policy equivalent of having one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the break.

Beijing in particular has become notorious for traffic problems. It is not uncommon for people to be stuck in their cars for hours.

In August, hundreds of truck drivers endured a nine-day, 100 km (60 mile) traffic jam caused by construction on a highway leading into Beijing.

Although China is spending billions of dollars on roads and railways, two-thirds of Chinese cities face the same traffic congestion problems as Beijing, the Ministry of Public Security said in October.

(Reporting by Sally Huang and Ken Wills; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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