This Thursday will not be the first time that Kunming has participated in World Car-Free Day, but it will be the least amount of effort the city has put into the event in four years.
From 10am to 3pm all private car and motorcycle traffic will be banned on the two-kilometer loop comprised of Cuihu Bei Lu, Cuihu Xi Lu, Cuihu Nan Lu and Cuihu Dong Lu, the four roads that encircle Green Lake Park, according to local media reports.
No-car days here haven't always been this feeble. Kunming held its first no-car day on September 22, 2007, shutting down all private traffic for 12 hours (7am to 7pm) and garnering praise for having one of the biggest and most successful no-car days in China.
This year's no-car day should have no noticeable impact on the city's traffic, but in 2007 it was estimated that more than 200,000 private cars were prevented from driving within the area contained within Huancheng Bei Lu, Huancheng Dong Lu, Huancheng Nan Lu, Xichang Lu and Yieryi Dajie.
In October 2007 Kunming leapt to the top of many people's "most progressive cities in China" lists when it announced that it would observe monthly no-car days, banning private car and motorcycle traffic from the same area from 9am to 7pm on the fourth Saturday of every month.
Air quality improvement was one of the main reasons provided by the Kunming municipal government to justify the no-car days. According to government statistics, on the first no-car day in Kunming carbon monoxide levels dropped 32.9 percent, nitrogen dioxide levels dropped 45.1 percent, ozone was down 39.5 percent, carbon dioxide was down 15.4 percent and airborne particulate matter was reduced by more than one-fifth.
City officials upped the ante in February 2008 when they extended the scope of no-car days beyond the first ring road. On odd-numbered months, private cars with license plates ending in even numbers would be banned from driving between the first and second ring roads, and vice-versa. The time of the no-car days shrank by two hours to 9am-7pm.
Six months later in August 2008, city managers decided that they had taken things too far and decided to return no-car days to their original scope – essentially the first ring road. Hours were reduced to 9am-5pm.
Shortly afterward, monthly no-car days were canceled by the government, which said that the wholesale demolition and rebuilding of the second ring road was putting enough stress on the city's traffic infrastructure to make no-car days impractical.
On September 22, 2009 Kunming held a 12-hour no-car day, followed by a severely emasculated no-car day in 2010 that only included the road around Green Lake Park, plus segments of Beijing Lu and Dongfeng Lu.
This year's almost nonexistent no-car day suggests that there are so many cars in Kunming that the government is incapable of mobilizing sufficient resources to control car use. This is not surprising given that at the end of 2010, when traffic congestion was already a major problem, the city was adding more than 1,000 newly registered cars to its streets each day.
Editor's note: Thursday's no-car day will not include pedestrian bridges.© Copyright 2005-2019 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.