Beijing saw 800,000 fewer cars hit the road this week. The reason: a new law took effect that limits how many days a person can drive his or her car. That means 70 percent of government vehicles and all corporate and private cars must take turns staying off the road one day a week.
How it works: The last number on your license plate corresponds to the day of the work week you are banned from driving. Plates ending in one or six are off the roads on Mondays, two or seven are banned on Tuesdays, and so on. I'm wondering whether a black market for license plates will be created - ones that differ only in one number from your original plate and you can them switch out to stay on the road five days a week?! Police vehicles, ambulances and taxis are allowed to operate normally.
A similar measure was in place during the Olympics, when there were alternating days people were allowed to drive. Officials say that cut air pollution significantly, by about 120,000 tons.
But after the Olympics, it was back to traffic jams and worsening smog. So the government considered reinstating the ban. Beijing residents were encouraged to post their thoughts and opinions on an online forum. Although less than half of the 400,000 respondents supported continuing the restrictions on driving, it was extended on a trial basis until April 2009. If successful, the limits may be imposed in other cities. Beijing adds about 1,200 new vehicles to the road each day, so this sort of drastic measure could have a big impact on congestion and pollution.
Photo credit: Mariodo