No-car Day

September 22 was a banner day throughout China. It marks China’s first participation in the International No Car Day where everyone is supposed to leave their car at home. China ordered 108 cities here to ban cars and use only public transport. This is a big deal for modern China to do. First, there are more cars being produced in China than anywhere in the world. The Chinese in just recent years have become the largest consumers of cars. It is a sign of wealth and success to throw away the bike and buy a car. The sad fact is that the Chinese have little idea how to actually use cars. They still think bike rules apply for driving a car. As a result, China has the highest fatality rate in the world through car accidents. Last year over 100,000 deaths attributed to car accidents here. Couple this with the explosive growth rate of car ownership in China, and this will only get worse.Kunming is a city about the same size as Seattle metro area. Seattle has about 1 million people and typical major car congestion problems. Kunming has over 5 million people AND over 400 new cars a day are added to it’s streets! You can see the problems with cars here are out of control compared to Seattle. Beijing is adding 1000 new cars a day to their city. Growth like this is not found anywhere else in the world. Needless to say, driving in China is both dangerous and not at all pleasant. My car generally stays in the garage unless we are going out of town. I use my moto everywhere, which is fast and easy.So today all cars were banned from Kunming. I went into town and still found the streets very busy, but nothing like it normally is here. The only thing driving was the busses and taxi’s. It was strange to see the roads full of only taxi’s everywhere. You should see the video I did. I still can’t believe how many taxi’s there are in Kunming!

UPDATE 10/19/07………

Kunming newspaper Dushi Shibao is reporting that beginning on the 27th of this month, “Kunming will be the first city in China to have monthly ‘No-car days'”. After this month, private cars will be banned from entering the city’s ring road between the hours of 9:00 am and 7:00 pm on the fourth Saturday of each month.

On September 22 Kunming was one of more than 100 Chinese cities to ban private cars downtown during the day. For twelve hours, downtown Kunming’s streets were primarily occupied by buses, taxis, electric scooters and bicycles. The city’s effort was one of the most successful in the country, while Beijing and Shanghai’s no-car days received lukewarm reviews.

According to municipal government statistics, September’s no-car day had a significant effect on air quality. Carbon monoxide levels dropped 32.9 percent, nitrogen dioxide levels dropped 45.1 percent, ozone was down 39.5 percent, carbon dioxide was down 15.4 percent and airborne particulate matter was reduced by more than one-fifth.