As China’s economy explodes in a frenzy of growth, one consequence has been the skyrocketing amount of traffic, leading to gridlock, frustration and now, regulation of the number of cars on China’s roads and highways. The City of Beijing is limiting the number of new license plates issued to 240,000 in 2011, or about one-third as many as were registered in 2010. New car buyers will have to draw lots to get a license. Some 100,000 people have already entered to win one of the 20,000 plates to be issued this month. There were 4.7 million registered vehicles in the Chinese capital last year, up from 2.6 million in 2005. For the first time, last year more cars were sold in China than in the U.S.
Last year, 1,900 cars were sold in Beijing every single day. Epic gridlocks, including one traffic jam that lasted 10 days, resulted. Air pollution and its attendant health problems are a huge issue, and the pollution does not recognize national borders. The Chinese government is wise to try to begin limiting vehicles since the growing number of cars has grave consequences for the planet’s health, not to mention human health.
Behavior change and education have to accompany regulation in order to get more people out of cars. The ad described in the video below was commissioned by the China Environmental Protection Foundation to encourage more Chinese to walk instead of drive. A canvas of a “naked” tree is unfurled on a busy crosswalk; passersby unwittingly step in (enviro-friendly) green paint and create “leaves” on the canvas tree:
This beautiful and creative street tree project was eventually replicated in 132 roads in 15 cities in China, involving nearly four million pedestrians, and won a Gold Lion prize at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. But it won’t be enough; we need more actions, redesign and education to curb cars in China and the rest of the world.
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Photo: Still from China Environmental Protection Foundation video via YouTube
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