Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 18:42 UK

Beijing 'to reinstate car rules'

Beijing's central business district shrouded in smog (arhcive image)
Before the Olympic restrictions, Beijing was shrouded in smog

Beijing is preparing to reinstate certain traffic restrictions, after rules enforced during the Olympic Games helped clean the city's polluted air.

Analysts say the move is an unusual example of Chinese policy being shaped in response to public opinion.

Rules drawn up for the Olympics saw one million cars - a third of the total - taken off Beijing's streets.

The drastic action, along with a freeze on industrial production, brought unusually blue skies to the city.

New trial

The measures were taken to satisfy the International Olympic Committee.

They might have remained just an exercise in window-dressing for foreign consumption, but the response from Beijingers themselves was overwhelmingly positive, says the BBC's Andre Vornic.

Although there is no formal system for public consultation in China, internet forums and letters to the media conveyed genuine satisfaction.

Now the authorities have responded by bringing in a milder set of restrictions, which are to be trialled until April and made permanent if found to be working.

Beginning on Wednesday, the government is setting an example by keeping 30% of its vehicles off the streets at any one time.

Later in October, all cars will be banned from the roads on one day a week, depending on their number plates.

Employers are meanwhile being asked to stagger working hours to reduce peak traffic.

In just one generation, Chinese cities have turned from virtually car-free environments into traffic-choked ones.

There are now signs that people are growing more sceptical of cars, as happened in Western countries in the 1970s.

Correspondents say that in just a few more years, Beijingers could well come full circle and rediscover the bicycle - almost the only mode of private transport in their parents' time.


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