The needs of cyclists and pedestrians should be considered during urban development so people will have more public space, China’s top urban planning authority said on Sept 16.
Developers should take these needs into account when building or improving roads, said Tang Kai, chief planner of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.
“In recent years, cyclists have faced a deteriorating environment in cities, and the proportion of people choosing to walk or ride bicycles to get around keeps declining,” Tang said at a conference to mark 2014 China’s Car-Free Day.
“Governments in some cities have been removing bicycle lanes or narrowing sidewalks when approving road development to give more space to motor vehicles,” he said.
Since 2007, China has used Car-Free Day, which falls on Sept 22, to promote green transport and the reduction of traffic congestion and pollution - serious problems in many cities in China.
The number of vehicles in China reached 137 million in 2013. There are more than 5 million cars in Beijing. Increased use of cars has been a major cause of urban air pollution.
The use of bikes, however, has been declining. In Beijing, less than 20 percent of people use bikes as a means of transportation, compared with more than 50 percent 20 years ago, according to government figures.
Chen Yanyan, a professor in transportation and urban planning at Beijing University of Technology, said the unfavorable environment for riding bikes is an important reason why more people choose cars instead of bicycles as means of transportation.
“It is encouraging to see the government has realized the problems caused by cars, such as worsening air pollution and increased energy consumption,” Chen said.
To encourage the use of bicycles, public rental bikes have been introduced in many cities, such as Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and Beijing.
In Hangzhou, the number of bikes for rent to the public increased to more than 70,000 last year. In Beijing, the number of public rental bikes is expected to increase to 50,000 by the end of next year.
“I think as long as consensus (on green transport) can be reached and the government has the will, wide use of green transport is likely,” Chen said.
Wang Limei, secretary-general of China Road Transport Association, said it is right to develop sidewalks and bike lanes in urban areas, but fast highways are necessary for cities.
“Different transport means should be adopted in different areas,” she said. “Bikes are suitable for less busy areas but in areas with heavy traffic flow, a fast means of transport, such as cars, should be given priority to increase transport efficiency.”