On the morning of July 20, the first day Beijing exercised the rule on alternate permission of vehicles on roads according to their license numbers, I was driving on the Fourth Ring Road as my license number happened to be an even one.
However, I was not as joyful as I had expected myself to be, because the traffic didn't seem lighter than usual. I soon discovered the reason why the road was still crowded - at least part of the reason: of the four lanes, one was the "special lane reserved for Olympic Games-related vehicles".
Sure, most citizens will not complain against the necessary measures the government has taken. And we know that alleviating traffic congestion is not the sole purpose of the new road policy. Improving the city's air quality is more important.
But that day I did have some dissatisfaction.
When I drove on the Fourth Ring Road, I saw some cars without special passes issued by the organizing committee running in the "Olympic lane" right under the watchful look of some policemen, who, however, made no attempt to stop it. I felt somewhat resentful and believed that most other drivers who stuck to the legal lanes felt the same, for it so happened - despite the seemingly unreal coincidence - that the radio was broadcasting instant comments from some listeners on the same topic.
That is a major, if not the biggest, problem with the city's traffic management: it is too often that violation of traffic rules is not punished.
The most frequently seen offense is the act of jumping the queue at the crossroads. Whenever there is a build-up of vehicles waiting to go through a passage - a crossroads or a highway exit or a toll gate - there are always drivers who use the bicycle lane or an emergency lane or the hard shoulder to rush to the front end of the queue and force their way into it.
But I never - not a single once - saw a policeman correcting the wrongdoing.
Maybe the police did correct the offenses but I happened not to have seen them. But the fact that I witnessed so many such offenses and not a single time saw any violator punished at least indicates that the rate of correcting is low.
Probably the police think it is only a minor offense. Minor offenses are now taken care of by CCTV or, traffic assistants. But I believe such behavior should be punished. If it is not, it is a punishment to those who faithfully observe the rules.
If things are allowed to continue this way, more people will join the team of the offenders. No punishment of wrongdoing means encouraging more offenders.
Traffic policemen's maintenance of road rules is not just a move to ensure a smooth flow of traffic, but more significantly a move to help improve the quality of the citizenry.
There are many deep-rooted bad habits among our citizens, such as jumping queues and jaywalking. It is difficult to rectify these chronic and obstinate maladies but we must make a move to overcome them. The government has launched a series of campaigns to address the problems.
Traffic police also have the responsibility to contribute to the effort, because they are part of the government.
(China Daily 07/23/2008 page8)