Although Beijing is a participant in this world-wide event, people are largely unaware of or simply ignore Car Free Day. Using the question "do you know today is the World Car Free Day?", I randomly ask ten people on the street, all of them give me the same answer: they have no idea about it.
According to worldcarfree.net, a website that promotes carfree day activities, people from around the world get together every September 22 in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that people don't have to accept a car-dominated society.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban- Rural Development announced earlier that Beijing is one of the 147 Chinese cities voluntarily participating in the event this year, promoting cycling and walking as a means of transportation. Liu Heming from the Ministry explains:
"We'll encourage public transportation system to enhance their service quality, thus making traveling in the city more convenient and comfortable. Currently, it's very cheap to travel by buses, but they are too crowded sometimes. With better environment and services, more people would turn to public transportation."
In some cities today, cars are taken off the streets to give people an opportunity to consider how their city might look with fewer cars.
In Beijing, certain roads are cordoned off from 7 am to 7pm. Meanwhile, in order to ensure people's travel in the city, 300 more buses along 40 routes are put to use to accommodate public demand.
In Shenzhen, the closing hour of five subway lines will be delayed to midnight. And in Guangzhou city, only 10% of cars from the local government and public-service organizations are allowed to be on roads for emergency use today.
In Shanghai, an estimated 200,000 private car owners will opt to take public transportation today. And the city's subway authorities advise commuters to avoid peak travel times today as all 11 lines will be under added pressure due to the Car-Free Day.
Zhang Yu, head of the Car Free Day from The Ministry of Housing and Urban- Rural Development says through their promotion over the past years, more and more people have started to support the Car Free Day. This can be seen in the results of a poll they've done.
"In the poll, there has been a great change in recent years. In the beginning, few people knew about Car Free Day. But after several years of publicity, more and more people started to pay attention to green transportation and began to support Car Free Day. And more people are willing to turn to environmental friendly ways of traveling."
By advocating and building green transport systems in cities, urban traffic will be sustainably improved. But we do not want just one day of celebration and then a return to "normal" life. When people get out of their cars, they should stay out of their cars. It will take permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars.
For CRI, I am Zhang Wan.