Beijing Limits Traffic To Cut Smog Ahead Of Games

To gear up for the summer Olympic Games in less than a month, Beijing has rolled out new pollution-control measures. They're designed to cut the amount of vehicle exhaust and industrial pollution.

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Beijing has taken another step to clean its filthy air. Shortly before the start of the Olympics, new traffic rules have gone into effect. If they work, they're intended to cut traffic in half. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.

ANTHONY KUHN: From now until after the Paralympics on September 20th, Beijing residents are restricted to driving on every other day, depending on whether their license plates end in even or odd numbers. There are still some traffic jams, but our cabbie, Jung Hai Bing(ph), says that it's better than usual.

Mr. JUNG HAI BING (Cab Driver): (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: The traffic flow is definitely lighter today, he says. It's refreshing when there aren't as many traffic jams. The traffic report says the second- and third-ring roads are pretty good, too.

One thing that seems to be slowing the traffic down a bit is that the far left-hand lane in each direction is reserved for Olympic traffic. Hmm, our driver just veered into the Olympic lane for a few seconds. I hope none of the thousands of surveillance cameras on the street caught him doing that.

To help commuters, Beijing has opened three new subway lines and deployed 2,000 extra buses.

Ms. XI JING(ph): (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: Telecoms worker Xi Jing is coming out of the Jien Guamen(ph) subway stop. Of course I'll take the subway or a cab when my car isn't allowed on the street, she says. I feel I should fully cooperate with our nation's actions.

There are 3.3 million cars on Beijing's streets now and a thousand new ones hitting the road every day, so Beijingers will probably have to get used to more traffic restrictions and more gridlock.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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