Private Cars, or Public Transportation for the 2008 Olympic Games?

by Wen Xiaofen, Capital Normal University, Beijing, April 18, 2008

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Everyone knows China is a developing country with a population of over 1.3 billion. “1.3 billion is a big number,” our Premier Wen Jiabao said. “Any small problem will become big if it is multiplied by 1.3 billion; any big amount will be small if divided by 1.3 billion.” Similarly, this theory is applicable to Chinese environment issues. The development of such a large society has caused more and more private cars to enter thousands of ordinary Chinese families. However, large amounts of private cars has brought about a series of environmental problems in China. The streets are always crowded with them. They not only make an unbearable noise, but also give off many poisonous gases which have a harmful effect on the air quality. Furthermore, cars waste a great deal of energy..

Fortunately, the Chinese government has taken action to cope with this problem. I’d like to take Beijing as an example.

Beijing has an extensive public transportation network. Of course, public buses are the cheapest means of transportation, which covers the entire city. The lowest fare of public buses is 1 Yuan in the city and 2 Yuan in the suburb areas.

It is a good idea to buy a Public Transportation Card which charges a lowest fare of 40 cents per trip. As a foreigner, you pay a deposit of 20 Yuan and prepay a certain amount, and then you can use the Public Transportation Card just like any Beijing citizen. When you leave Beijing, just return the card at any card sale counter and the deposit will be returned to you. In fact, this discount policy encourages people to travel by public transportation instead of private cars.

From August 17th to 20th, Beijing, the city host of the 2008 Olympics, held a drill to test the city's efforts to improve air quality and traffic congestion. About 1.3 million vehicles - nearly half of the total 3 million in the city - were ordered off the roads as part of pre-Olympic tests. On August 17th and 19th, vehicles with odd license plate numbers were allowed on the roads. On August 18th and August 20th, even plated numbers were permitted on the road.

During the drill, the number of vehicles on roads sharply decreased, as expected. As a result, both the pedestrians and drivers found the road unimpeded and it only took them half the time to reach their destinations. By arranging work schedules and means of transportation in advance, most people had the benefit of the drill.

Frankly speaking, it is not realistic to implement such a policy for a long period of time in Beijing. However, during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, I believe it will be an efficient method under well-prepared and fully mobilized conditions.

The improvement of air quality doesn’t change when one drives less by a few days. In my viewpoint, the key point is to raise the awareness for environment protection. When people are deeply aware of environmental concerns, not only will they be less likely to travel by car, but they will also .devote themselves to protecting the environment in their daily life.

Holding a “Green Olympic” is a public issue. In other words it requires every citizen’s participation. Nowadays, more and more Chinese people have realized the problem and they are ready to make their own efforts.

Of course, I am one of them. To tell you the truth, I can’t help love driving, Naturally softspoken and gentle, when I can control that huge machine, I feel brilliant and I dream of travelling around the whole world in my private car. However, in order to make my own contribution to environment protection, I choose to leave my driver’s license at home and take public transportation instead.

As the 2008 Olympic Games approaches, my dream for driving has changed. In 2008, I hope to be a volunteer engaged in driving service. Driving around Beijing in an environmentally friendly powered car, I hope to show people from all over the world the change I made for environmental protection.. The slogan of "Green Olympics", shows that all the Chinese have dived into the new construction for Beijing. Green trees, gardens and greenbelts have been built to make Beijing resemble a huge scroll painting.

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