China's Car Free Day Meets Massive Resistance

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

More than 142 Chinese cities marked the country’s fifth Car Free Day last week, which was summarily ignored. “Traffic congestion in major Chinese cities showed little signs of easing,” reports China Daily, as Chinese drivers took to the streets with unchanged gusto. The only exception was a few blocks around Beijing’s Bird’s Nest, which remained free of cars.

Here, “the municipal government banned private cars from being driven,” writes China Daily.

That was remarkable, because on a day-to-day basis, even car bans have lost their efficacy:

For years. Beijing’s motorists already endured their own car-free day each week when they have to leave their car at home, based on a byzantine system involving the last digit of their license plate.

When that did not yield the desired effect, Beijing brought new car sales to their knees by requiring new registrations to go through a lottery. Roulette has better odds than getting a license plate in Beijing.

Still, “Beijing’s downtown with some of the world’s widest streets are typically clogged with nearly 5 million automobiles registered in the city,” says China Daily.

“In Shanghai, 200,000 car drivers had accepted car stickers from volunteers organized by the municipal government and several non-governmental organizations at gas stations over the last few days. The drivers made the pledge to voluntarily give up driving on Thursday, and to use their vehicles as little as possible on other weekdays.”

And then, the pledge was ignored.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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Join the conversation
  • Eldard Eldard on Sep 24, 2011

    That's good. We don't want the price of oil to suddenly drop now, do we?

  • Herb Herb on Sep 24, 2011

    Of course, "the pledge was ignored". Even without living in a mega city like Beijing or Shanghai I can very well imagine that most of the people with private cars don't drive for fun. In the eighties I had the dream that the upcoming internet might offer new solutions that would make cities obsolete in the long term. Man, was I wrong!

  • Obbop Obbop on Sep 25, 2011


  • Joe_thousandaire Joe_thousandaire on Sep 26, 2011

    Reminds me of our long standing family tradition of cutting down a tree every Earth Day.