Beijing is the world's most congested city, as anyone living or traveling there is bound to attest, and the whopping 4.7 million cars on the city's roads generate famously high levels of traffic and air pollution (stay up to date with hourly air quality updates from this China air pollution app).
Although traffic is not solely responsible for the thick haze that hangs over the city, with 2,000 new cars hitting the road each day and 60-mile long traffic jams that last for weeks, the situation simply cannot go on.
Recognizing this, the Beijing Municipal Government has posted a new set of proposals to tackle the issue that include levying tolls on drivers, extending the metro system, limiting the number of government cars on the roads, restricting Beijing residents to just one car per person (really, how many cars does one person need?), and non-resident car-owners being limited to those who own apartments and apply for a parking permit....
Some of the measures are reminiscent of those introduced during the Beijing Olympics, measures which led to the clearest skies and cleanest air the city has seen in recent years, largely by significantly reducing the number of government cars. Hopefully the price hikes will encourage at least some commuters to get on their bikes and ride to work (though at present for many the health benefits are probably still negated by the badly polluted air), and also promote the use of more electric bikes, a market that has steadily been growing in the capital. However, over the last decade the city has become increasingly unfriendly to cyclists and pedestrians; multi-lane highways and bus lanes have eaten into bike lanes, less public space is available for cycle parking, and drivers have become more aggressive.
How effective the proposed measures will be, the future only knows. Unfortunately for now, traffic congestion remains a reflection of economic development and conspicuous consumption remains a top hobby in China. Those who really want a car are unlikely to be deterred and according to the Globe and Mail, the rumors have already sparked a buying frenzy as residents snap up vehicles before restrictions come into play.