Guangdong officials ponder law to cut traffic in cities

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2009, 12:00am

Authorities in Guangdong are considering legislation to restrict the number of vehicles on the province's crowded city streets.

The police bureau said a rapid increase in vehicles was causing a swathe of problems, such as air pollution, congestion and accidents, the government-run Nanfang Daily reported. The report said the province's infrastructure was now close to capacity and Guangdong and Shenzhen simply could not cope with any more vehicles.

Official statistics show that the number of vehicles registered in Guangdong had reached 17.3 million by July this year and both of its two main cities, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, had 1.2 million vehicles on the road each day. That number will keep increasing by at least 10 per cent a year, much higher than the growth in road capacity.

Rapid growth in vehicles is a major headache for urban planners. While cities including Beijing have enacted measures to restrict drivers - for example by keeping private cars off the streets for one day a week - legislation would mark a more concrete approach.

The report did not speculate on what type of restrictions Guangdong's police and traffic authorities were considering. So far neither Guangzhou nor Shenzhen has implemented any kind of measure restricting vehicles.

Earlier this year, several provincial political advisers launched detailed proposals to limit vehicles on the streets but they received little government feedback.

Li Hairong, a member of Shenzhen's People's Political Consultative Conference and an advocate for vehicle restrictions, proposed a series of measures to ease the problem immediately. Mr Li proposed limiting often-wasteful government car use, introducing congestion charges and upgrading public transport.

'There are many practical methods to limit car use or sales, but it could be hard to promote them because it involves tangled interests among different officials and departments,' he said.

'We have to speed construction of public transport because it is the most effective way to ease traffic pressure. We could also launch a congestion charge or increase the price of petrol.'

Mr Li said all such revenue must be reinvested in public transport.

Last February the mayor of Guangzhou, Zhang Guangning , said there were no plans to restrict licensing of private cars. He said the decision was not connected with the city's booming car industry.

Both Guangzhou and Shenzhen have spent heavily on public transport. Guangzhou will have nearly 250 kilometres of subway track by next year, while Shenzhen's subway will hit 177 kilometres by 2011.

Shenzhen is looking to get people out of their cars and onto their bicycles with the construction of 270 kilometres of bicycle lanes by the end of 2011. Unlike bike lanes in many mainland cities, where cyclists run a gauntlet of parked cars and traffic-dodging vehicles, Shenzhen's will be separated from the road itself.

An official from the urban planning bureau said the bicycle lane was particularly important as the growth in vehicles was showing no sign of slowing.

Shenzhen has been more willing to consider vehicle controls than Guangzhou, and since 2007 officials have publicly considered a congestion charge to enter downtown areas. But so far it has not come to fruition.

Running out of room

The growing number of vehicles in Guangdong is causing a number of problems

The number of cars on Guangzhou's roads has risen from 1.05 million in 1997 to the current: 2m

The number of cars on Shenzhen's roads is increasing every year by: 20%