Guangzhou officials hope to reduce congestion and accidents The buzz of motorcycle engines will fade from Guangzhou city streets during the next three years as part of an official drive against traffic accidents and crime. Authorities say the ban is aimed at removing all 313,700 of the city's registered motorcycles, initially from some main roads and downtown areas during off-peak hours and later from suburban streets. Guangzhou Deputy Party Secretary Cui Renquan was yesterday quoted by the China Daily as saying that the first phase of the three-step plan would start on May 1. The second phase, a 24-hour ban on main roads, starts on January 1, 2006, with all the city's motorcycles expected to be off the streets by 2007. Motorcycles are seen as Guangzhou's main 'street killers', with 363 people dying in 3,044 motorcycle accidents - 43.61 per cent of all road accidents in the city - in the first half of last year. The ban's announcement comes after a hearing last month where most of the 17 participants - representing motorcycle owners, manufacturers, motorcycle robbery victims and others - expressed support for the plan, the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News reported. However, some participants raised concerns about the impact of the ban on owners and the motorcycle industry. A Guangzhou research centre survey last month found 61.4 per cent of respondents favoured the ban, while only 25.5 per cent of those who owned and often used motorcycles supported it. A total of 831 people were interviewed. The ban's supporters believed it would help reduce the accident rate, curb robberies and improve the environment. Theft of handbags and mobile phones by motorcycle riders is common in cities such as Guangzhou. However, 41.3 per cent of respondents did not think the ban would eliminate traffic congestion as the local government hoped. Some motorcycle retailers say prices have fallen significantly in Guangzhou. Chen Youxin, of the Changshun Motorcycle company, said a Suzuki Haojue 125 model's price had fallen from 21,000 yuan in November to 9,500 yuan and there were few buyers. In the past, he sold more than 200 units a month and sales have fallen to just four or five a month. He complained the ban was being rushed in and it was unfair to blame congestion on motorcycles alone. With motorcycles being phased out, the Guangzhou government has promised to compensate owners and improve public transport. More than 30 mainland cities, including Beijing, have restricted or banned motorcycles. Shenzhen will ban them from main roads and downtown areas in April, while Guangzhou had stopped issuing motorcycles number plates in 1998.