January/February 1995, p.7

World Traffic Report

The Greening of the Champs Elysees
The Champs Elysees, the most famous boulevard in Paris and perhaps in the world, has recently been redone. After years of decline, the mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac decided to rescue the boulevard from seediness and restore its glory. The changes, which included the widening of the sidewalk to 65 feet, narrowing the roadway, the planting of additional rows of trees and cosmetic improvements have made the new Champs-Elysees "the most beautiful promenade in the world", according to the mayor.

Chinese Government is sold on the Car
The Chinese government is in love with cars and is trying to sell the idea to the country's 400 million families, most of whom still depend on bicycles for transport The government is recruiting Western automakers to design and introduce a suitable car. Automakers have been positioning for their model to be accepted by the government. Eventually, the government hopes to begin mass-producing cars in China once demand is strong. Meanwhile, increased vehicle use raised China's traffic fatalities from an average of 50,000 yearly to 63, 508 in 1993.

In stark contrast the nearby British colony of Hong Kong is taking a different approach toward motor vehicles. Hong Kong, which suffers from severe traffic congestion, has proposed raising the new car registration tax to 7096, up from 40?60%. The funds raised would go toward improvements in the transportation system including rail systems. Based on previous experience, the Hong Kong government expects the measure to succeed, cutting traffic growth by 3%.

The Dutch Revolution
Groningen, Holland is racing toward becoming a true car-free city. There the car must conform to the city, rather than vise-versa. Beginning in the 1970s, the city began to restrict car use by dividing the city into four "quadrants" from which cars could enter or leave only via a ringroad around the city. The project's success, which lead to the cultural and economic revitalization of the downtown area, has quieted opposition from local merchants. Now, the city plans to restrict cars completely from first one quadrant, and eventually from all four quadrants. The rest of Europe is taking notice. Amsterdam is carrying out its own ambitious car free campaign as has Copenhagen and other cities. City councils from Milan, Italy and Bath, England are studying the idea.

English Anti-Road Movement
A major report just released by England's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has challenged Britain to end what Margaret Thatcher labeled as the nation's "great car economy." The extensive report 30 months in the making, is a significant departure in English transportation policy. It argues for a major shift away from the automobile in favor of public transportation, offering a fist of 110 detailed recommendations. Among them, the Commission counsels the government to redirect half of its current 25 billion dollar roads budget to rails, buses and trains. In addition, it recommends the price of gasoline be doubled by the year 2005, that the number of car trips in London be reduced by 30% by the year 2020, and that urban transit policy be centered more strongly on the bicycle.

Despite the expected opposition from the British Road Federation, many new voices are joining the auto free cause. Britain's Department of Transport; in a position that would have been inconceivable 18 months ago, conceded that road building encourages additional traffic.

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