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Free ride share campaign growing despite bumps

By Guan Xiaomeng  (

17:28, March 05, 2013

Nearly 10,000 people got a free ride home for the Spring Festival family reunion in a charity campaign calling for private car owners to drive their fellow countrymen home for free during the annual travel rush.

About 400,000 people took part in the campaign through the official website, mobile application and SMS service matching potential drivers and passengers, and 9,678 passengers were paired up with private car drivers.

Charity big name Wang Yong, Deng Fei and CCTV broadcasters Lang Yongchun, Chen Weihong and Zhao Pu initiated the 2013 version of the campaign before Spring Festival, which fell on Feb 8 this year, and Wang hoped to continue the campaign to make it an alternative way for migrant workers to travel, and eventually become a major method of transport, along with trains, buses and planes.

Wang, himself a helping car owner and also a PR and communications executive, said he was dissatisfied with the results of the new campaign. He urged better communication platforms to help people who want to travel together.

"Legal matters is another problem we need to tackle," said Wang at a conference briefing the 2013 campaign in Beijing on Monday, explaining that the "good deeds" face challenges from transport authorities, who could accuse the drivers of "illegal transport".

Liu Jie, a construction worker in Changzhou of Jiangsu province, never thought his helpful action of dropping his workmates off at home on his own way home could end up in a seven-hour detention for "illegal passenger transport".

The Anhui native was driving four workmates, who failed to get a train ticket home during the Spring Festival travel rush, when they were stopped by road inspectors near the Jiangning service area in Nanjing, where Liu was made to pay a 5,000 yuan fine.

The five travel mates were not freed until their employer company issued an identifying paper verifying the car was not owned by the company and the travel was at Liu's own expense.

"I did not charge my workmates, and they did not pay, either," Liu said. "I don't understand why it is illegal to help others."

Yue Shenshan, lawyer and senior partner at Beijing Yue Cheng Law Office and consultant for the free ride campaign, suggests a better definition of "transportation operation" in the road transportation regulations, as "operation" can mean for profit, to make way for the free ride campaign.

The campaign promotion coincided with the annual National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature. Xie Zilong, an NPC deputy and a supporter of the campaign, is reported to have submitted a proposal calling on revising the definition of "road transportation operation" to facilitate people’s mutual trust and eventually ease city traffic.

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