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Green Traffic Week Launched to Cut Emissions

China launched its first nationwide urban public transport week on Sunday in an attempt to raise residents' awareness on energy saving and environmental protection.

The Chinese government introduced the campaign because worsening traffic congestion and pollution caused by increased traffic plagues many cities.

The campaign, with the theme of "Green Transport and Health", covers 108 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, and will last through September 22, according to the Ministry of Construction.

Various publicity programs encourage people to walk, ride bicycles and use public transport; buses, subways and taxies, rather than drive private cars, the ministry said.

During the campaign, the 108 cities will set one or more special zones, open only to pedestrians, bicycle riders, taxi and bus passengers between 7 AM and 7 PM. September 22 will be called "No Car Day".

China will launch the weeklong campaign at the same time each year, an official with the ministry said.

In response to the campaign, on Sunday three sets of brides and bridegrooms got married on a bus in Harbin, the capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

"The bus wedding was both environmentally friendly and romantic. It means a lot to us," Lin Xiaoxue, a bride, reported.

"I'm very happy to blend my career with my wedding. It's going to be the most valuable memory in my life," said bus driver Wang Yongguang, Lin's bridegroom.

The cities have added additional buses and subways in the expectation that some local residents would turn to public transportation for their commutes.

The government in Zhengzhou, the capital of central China's Henan Province, showcased to the public on Sunday a 25-meter-long huge bus that can carry up to 230 passengers.

Public transport authorities in the northwestern city of Lanzhou encouraged residents to take the gas-powered buses to reduce the existing and severe air pollution.

Many mayors and other government officials also chose to take buses in a gesture of their determined efforts to develop public transportation as well as ease worsening traffic jams and air pollution.

The "No Car Day" is expected to help save 33 million liters of oil and reduce 3,000 tons of toxic gas emissions generated daily by private cars.

The urban public transport week aims to coordinate development between urban transport and construction by shifting its transport development model to more reliance on public transport rather than on private cars, the Ministry of Construction said.

The government has long been boosting the development of the nation's auto industry. The cities often nibble away at sidewalks and bicycle ways to expand streets and build viaducts for cars, while paying less attention to the development of the public transport system.

The urban population, as a result, resorts to private cars to avoid crowded subways and buses. Not surprisingly, traffic jams have become commonplace in Chinese cities.

Public transport facilities accounts for less than 10 percent of China's traffic volume. Buses only run at the speed of 10kms per hour on average, according to the ministry's statistics.

Officials hoped the campaign would help to alleviate traffic congestion and air pollution in the 108 cities by encouraging more people to resort to green traveling means.

Previous similar practices have convinced them.

Traffic flowed more smoothly and Beijing's air quality improved when China's capital banned half of its cars off the roads during the Olympic Games traffic control trials from August 17 to 20.

Cars with odd-numbered license plates were ordered off the roads on August 17 and 19, and cars with even-numbered registrations on the remaining two days.

(Xinhua News Agency September 17, 2007)

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