Not to dispute the gravity of China's air pollution, but cities all over the country are scrambling to build massive subway systems (perhaps too eagerly, as noted by some financial analysts; see http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/17/us-china-economy-infrastructure-idUSBRE8BG14L20121217)
, and at least in Chengdu (and thus I'd reckon in other Chinese cities as well) all city buses and taxis run on compressed natural gas.
Nonetheless, as we all know, car ownership rates here are skyrocketing, making it harder for everybody to get around via other means of transport. It's a vicious cycle.
From: Karen Sandness <sandness.karen@...
Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2013 1:17 AM
Subject: [carfree_cities] Re: Air Pollution now major cause death of death
When I spent two weeks in Beijing in 1990, it was a nearly car-free city. Sure, certain high officials rode around in chauffeured cars, but ordinary people rode bicycles in a city that is flat and on the edge of a desert, so no hills or frequent rainstorms to contend with. Much of the freight was carried in pedicabs or horse-drawn vehicles. Instead of gas stations, there were makeshift roadside businesses that repaired bicycles and patched up flat tires. There was a rudimentary subway system and plenty of buses.
There was air some air pollution, most notably from coal-powered furnaces. We learned why the teacups in our rooms were covered, because any boiled water that we drew from the thermos bottles in each room in order to cool it ended up with black specks in it otherwise.
But visibility was fine, and you could see the blue sky.
It was disheartening to learn a few years later that the Chinese government was encouraging car ownership, building freeways, and banning bicycles from many streets. If they had been smart, as opposed to eager to catch up with the West, they would have used that money to create the world's best subway system and switch over to non-petroleum buses.
Well, they got what they wanted.
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