Bad parking at root of China's crammed roads

Source:Global Times Published: 2010-6-17 8:20:57

By Michael Knapp

China's streets are overcrowded. People complain, "There are too many cars!" It is nothing new, nor is the notion of limiting the number of cars. But my controversial opinion on how to solve China's traffic problems may be something people haven't considered before.

I don't think it's a numbers problem. If anything, more cars reflects positive change, proving that at least some Chinese people are getting richer.

I've experienced traffic jams in Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities in the US, but I'm not aware of any laws limiting the number of cars allowed on the road. It's not the solution.

Limiting the numbers creates a whole new set of problems. It violates personal freedom and encourages rich people to find loopholes like buying several cars. Some people just change their plates to a second illegal set in order to drive every day.

Restricting bikes, as they do in Shanghai, won't solve the problem either. It promotes less exercise and more pollution. And, if bikes are banned, even more people will buy cars. When you see 300 bikes on a street, try to imagine them suddenly becoming 300 cars! Those who can't afford cars will walk. But pedestrians, as well as bikes, are a nuisance to drivers.

But, if we don't limit the number of cars and bikes, how can traffic jams be reduced without hurting the economy?

It's a parking problem. Sure, that stems from the numbers, but effectively solving parking problems will eliminate much of the mess, regardless of how many cars exist.

Many drivers see bikes and pedestrians as the problem. Traffic jams would be reduced if pedestrians and bikes weren't darting through traffic, but the real question is: Why are they in the traffic lanes in the first place?

Some walk and ride through the traffic because they aren't willing to wait for the green light before crossing the streets. That's another problem, but much of the mess is caused by parked cars in bike lanes, on sidewalks, and wherever drivers feel like parking.

Passing and enforcing stricter parking laws is necessary, but more action is necessary.

In the US, we have "tow away" zones, where police will tow cars away for being illegally parked. That's the first step. However, the greater challenge is providing enough parking spaces.

Developers make more money building tall buildings than parking garages. The government could practically eliminate this problem with one simple regulation, but it will meet fierce resistance.

I propose they pass a law, one that couldn't be avoided by bribery, requiring developers to put parking garages in every building they erect. Many buildings have underground parking lots now, but it's cheaper and easier to park in bike lanes.


The law should require builders to provide a minimum number of levels of parking spaces, say three or four, and enforce a small minimum charge that everyone can afford. The law would also limit the number of parking spaces they could reserve for individuals, leaving most of the spaces available to the public.

There would be resistance. No doubt, building companies would try bribing lawmakers into abandoning such a radical idea. If the corrupt prevail, it proves the rich rule and the poor are being left in their dust.

The justification for allowing a few people to get rich first was that if some were prospering, the whole country's economy would improve. Those who became rich would put money back into the economy and everyone would benefit.

To some extent it worked, although many have been left behind. I say the time is long overdue for the wealthy to pitch in, and offering parking is one small step forward.

In a country where things are supposed to be equal it's time for action.

Freedom for a few privileged people to stomp on the rest of society isn't freedom for all.

The author is an experienced English teacher in Beijing, author of Here They Come! Are You Ready? mdklaoshi@yahoo. Com

Posted in: Industries

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