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Bikes a lost passion in the age of cars

[ 2009-09-03 13:02]     字号 [] [] []  
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The world's "bicycle kingdom" is gradually abandoning its healthy habit and embracing the era of the automobile.

Approximately 40 percent of Beijingers chose bikes as their primary mode of transportation in 2000. Today, less than a quarter of locals ride bikes, according to statistics from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

The presentation of bicycle statistics from the ministry is double-edged: It is calling on everyone to walk and ride bicycles on the third annual national Car Free Day on September 22. But it is also attempting to wield its influence on developers to build more bike-friendly apartment complexes.

"With the shortage of energy and annoying traffic jams, we call on people to walk and ride instead of drive on the coming Car Free Day," said Liu Jiaming, director of the urban construction department of the ministry, at a press conference yesterday.

The theme for the car-free day is to choose healthy and environmentally friendly ways of traveling.

So far, 112 cities have encouraged residents to travel "green." Hong Kong might join the car-free league to change its poor air quality, Chinanews.com reported last week.

But regaining the forgotten habit of riding bikes is a tough challenge. Traffic jams and poor air quality has not changed with the success of the previous two events. About 110 cities participated in 2007 and 112 last year.

The ministry is calling for more cities to join this year.

"There will not be immediate influence for the environment or for people's habit, but Car Free Days are trying to change people's conception about travel. Walking and riding is the best way physically and environmentally," Liu said.

Generally, bicycles are the most effective way at an average speed of 11 to 14 km per hour, said Li Bingren, chief economist of the ministry.

On September 22, most cities plan to turn parts of its downtown area into traffic-free zones from 7 am to 7 pm in an effort to encourage people to take bicycles or public transportation, the ministry said.

China vehicle sales topped US figures for the first time in January, totaling 735,500. China kept the top spot for the next six months, according to the statistics from the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

More than 20 percent of the country's energy consumption volume is from transportation. Particulates in vehicle gas emissions are the main pollutants for air, according to figures from the ministry.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Bikes a lost passion in the age of cars

About the broadcaster:

Bikes a lost passion in the age of cars

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.