Beijing, July 4 (Xinhua) – The Beijing government will haul vehicles off roads for two weeks in August to rehearse traffic control measures for next year’s Beijing Olympics, organizers of the event said.

City authorities will clear Beijing’s roads of about one million vehicles between Aug. 7 and 20, said sources with the Beijing organizing committee of the Olympic Games.

They said the city government had endorsed the plan at an internal meeting, but refused to give details.

A spokesman with Beijing’s road traffic management bureau said the move would certainly speed up traffic in the urban areas and would cause little inconvenience.

“Students will be staying home for the summer holiday and the working population can take public transport instead of driving,” he said without giving his name.

The bureau said urban road transport has reached a crisis point in Beijing, with 90 percent of roads operating at full capacity and little room for expansion.

The number of Beijing’s registered automobiles reached 3 million on May 26, putting great pressure on the city’s traffic system and environment.

Despite the fact that Beijing is a flat city made for bicycles,and the environmental cost of cars, the city’s auto fleet is growing at the rate of 1,000 vehicles a day, and the total number is expected to top 3.3 million by August next year, when the Olympic Games open.

The municipal government has subsidized public transport heavily this year and slashed the average bus fare from 1 yuan to 0.4 yuan hoping more private drivers would take buses instead.

But it has so far refrained from imposing a significant tax on vehicles.

Last November Beijing imposed a six-day ban on at least 490,000 government vehicles and advised private drivers to take buses to make way for a summit meeting between Chinese and African leaders.Traffic was surprisingly easy even in the busiest areas during the week and citizens were treated to blue skies.

“I responded to the government’s call and left my car at home that week,” said Zhang Huijuan, a software engineer.

She had to take the subway and switch to a bus. But the trip from her home in downtown Xuanwumen to Zhongguancun, the high-tech zone in northwest Beijing, normally an hour’s drive, only took 40 minutes.

“If government vehicles are banned again, I will definitely follow suit,” she said.

PUBLICATION: Xinhua Online
AUTHOR: Lu Hui
DATED: 4th July 2007