Driving mad! 4m cars clog Beijing roads

14:13, December 21, 2009      

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(CFP Photo)

You can't miss them. They're everywhere. And as of this past weekend, there are more than 4 million of them on Beijing roads.

It's enough to literally drive commuters crazy. And not forget about the environmental impact.

Yes, automobiles are more popular than ever in China, particularly in major cities. And the numbers in Beijing have exploded in the past decade.

A city once known as the kingdom of bicycles, Beijing did not see many cars on the streets for decades, dating back to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

It wasn't until 1997 that the number of vehicles finally reached 1 million.

Then it took five years to hit the 2-million mark in 2003 – two years after China's accession to the World Trade Organization. Four years later, it hit 3 million. Now, after just two short years, the number has breached 4 million.

Chen Yao, a senior researcher of industrial layout and regional economy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that if the number of automobiles keeps growing by more than 1,000 per day, it will take just five years for the total to swell to 8 million, as many as in today's Tokyo and New York City.

"If the government does not plan in advance, the traffic in Beijing will be clogged and people will come to blows, face to face," he said.
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