More than 1,500 people in 19 mainland cities will ride horses to work over the next week to mark World Environment Day on Sunday.
The participants will saddle up for their morning's commuting along planned routes in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Qingdao.
Wu Gangfang, founder of the Horseman Union website and publicity director of the Chinese Equestrian Association, said it was a good way to get through heavy traffic in rush hours. 'We're not trying to convince people to ride horses every day,' Wu said. 'We're simply trying to spread an environmentally friendly concept and another way of healthy living at a time when many people suffer health problems from working long hours and from a lack of exercise.'
There was no law forbidding people from riding horses on public roads. 'The horses have been very well trained and won't get nervous if they hear cars honking,' he said.
One of the participants, Shou Mingyu, 43, an employee at a local TV station in Zhuji, Zhejiang, said he has been riding his horse on city roads for four years.
'I ride my horse, an Inner Mongolian breed, two or three times a week when I go to work, visit friends and dine in restaurants,' he said. 'It's convenient and quicker than being stuck in a traffic jam.' And he did not have to worry about drink-driving after dining with his friends.
Chang Youde, species programme officer at the WWF's Beijing office, said it was a fresh idea to raise public awareness about a low-carbon lifestyle. 'But in practice it might be quite unrealistic,' Chang said, 'as some of the riders may have to go through city centres where traffic is already very chaotic.'