China Urged to Back-Pedal on Anti-Bike Policy
The comments by Construction Ministry Vice Minister Qiu Baoxing follow the release of a World Bank report calling on China to develop its public transport system rather than just build more highways for cars.
"The large army of bicycles on the streets of Chinese cities amazed the West when China first opened to the outside world in early 1980s," Xinhua news agency said.
But the number of bikes -- once totalling some 500 million -- had plummeted as rapidly as private car ownership had expanded, Xinhua said.
Explosive growth of motor vehicles in Chinese cities had caused severe traffic jams and posed a grave challenge to the country's energy security and urban development, Xinhua quoted Vice Minister Qiu as saying.
Qiu lamented that some Chinese cities were cutting back on bicycle lanes in order to make more room for cars, even as some Western cities were building more lanes for cyclists.
He said his ministry firmly opposed the practice and had ordered cities to restore the lanes.
The number of motor vehicles on China's roads had risen 20 times between 1978 and 2004, Qiu said, adding that car numbers could increase five fold by 2020.
In 2004, China had 27 million motor vehicles, he said, and that number could reach 130 million in 15 years.
Despite worsening traffic jams and pollution, Qiu said that the government wouldn't restrict car ownership but might discourage downtown driving by levying fees.
China expects to put a further 6 million cars on the road in 2006. It is estimated in Beijing alone, 1,000 extra cars are added to the city's clogged arteries every day.