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Kunming to monetize street vendor chaos

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Selling merchandise out of cars, off the back of motorcycles or from a mat on the ground has become big business in Kunming over the past few years. This sort of vending often causes serious traffic snarls and renders some sidewalks nearly impossible to navigate.

In a somewhat belabored response, local authorities have decided to control and limit street vendors in one downtown area. The city has announced plans to regulate one of the most popular roadside vending locations at Xiaoximen, Xinhua is reporting.

The intersection of Renmin Zhong Lu and Dongfeng Xi Lu was completely closed down in 2008 when the "turtleback flyover" was built. Since then the pedestrian area underneath has become a favorite spot for street vendors to congregate. That will continue to be the case, but hawkers will now be be limited to 139 uniformly sized vending stalls.

People wishing to utilize the spaces will be required to register with the city and pay a monthly rental and "cleanliness" fee of 200 yuan. Forty stalls will be available free of charge for some vendors, including the disabled and recent migrants from the countryside.

The spaces will have three-month leases and vendors are prohibited from subletting their stalls. Random identification checks conducted by the city's much-maligned urban management officers — or chengguan — will also be conducted in an effort to keep a black market in turtleback real estate from developing.

Officials have said that by limiting the number of vendors and giving them stalls, it is hoped nightly traffic congestion in the Xiaoximen area can be alleviated. It will also have the added benefit, according to the article, of "...ensuring the city remains clean and free of image problems."

A new location, roughly 200 meters southwest of the turtleback on Daguan Jie (大观街), has also been proposed. When and if such a move will be made was not mentioned in the Xinhua article. The report does however, give a passing mention of city officials trying to locate or build a suitable venue at which all Kunming street vendors could congregate, although no specific area was indicated.

Image: YNInfo

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For God's sake and all that is holy may they very soon do something similar on Wenhuaxiang! Ideally they'd get rid of all the cars too, but that's a problem because people with money, rather than ordinary people, are living in the apartments there, and many of them, at least, own cars.

Unfortunately, controlling things in one area just results in these vendors moving to another unregulated location.

If the city wants to do things right then they need to do things equally across all areas.

I do not want the street vendors to be regulated or shut down. One of the reasons I came to China was to experience another culture, and street food and vending is definitely one aspect of Asian culture that not many Western places have. I do not want Kunming to turn into another Salt Lake City — bland, boring, everyone obeys all rules, empty, etc. I think that the street vendors add a lovely charm to China, and I want that charm to remain.

I think there's a big difference between the vendors who ply their trade for a meagre living eg snack sellers outside schools and park, and the young, middle-class people who sell as a hobby from the back of their large cars, clogging up the roads.

mmkunmingteacher, I sympathize about street marketing in general, though I don't call it 'lovely charm', and am happy to accept the minor inconveniences that it sometimes causes. However, anything can get out of hand, as Wenhuaxiang has (with potentialities for, and realities of, actual violence), and there is nothing 'un-Asian' about the idea of regulation (I take it you are not from an Asian culture, all of which are different from each other).

And all to be 'policed', and ID checks by chengguan.
Now there is a money making opportunity if ever there was one.

There are certainly quite a few spots that could do with a bit of management. I know of one road that is completely closed off at night by these sellers with their physical barriers! I believe that some sellers may already be 'offering gifts and donations' in order for some city personnel to turn a blind eye. Sure the odd shaokao spot is great but does any street or any city in the world need hundreds of unregulated sellers? they often sell their fakes and rubbish from quite expensive cars and vans... i doubt that they really NEED to be doing this! I hope they can apply this to other areas. I often have to avoid Xiaoximen (and other areas) just because of the congestion and the semi-organised gangs that appear to run them.

Maybe I'm just a laowai but I find the street vendors to be a nuisance, unregulated and often quite rude.

One of the problems with Kunming is the complete chaos of parking motorbikes and cars everywhere and these vendors who block the sidewalks and make pedestrian traffic very slow and difficult, and sometimes dangerous for pedestrians.

The vendors with the audio speakers that blast their price over and over I find completely obnoxious. Most Chinese people that I have talked to about this also don't like the noise but they put up with it because it is so common.

I empathize with their need to make a living but there should be some equal regulation and not just in some areas of the city. It should not be allowed to obstruct vehicle traffic, especially when the customers have to walk in the street between buses, cars and bikes with the vendors safely on the sidelines.

Hong Shan Dong Lu is completely paralyzed by these vendors.

I suppose this is a rant but I would like to see some order to the chaos. I suppose I'm crazy to believe it could be different but I do.

There really is a problem with having the chengguan do the regulation, since they are sometimes a bit brutal. The main problem with the interference with vehicle traffic, however, is that there is too much vehicle traffic, not too many street sellers. As for the audio speakers, I find them annoying, and I think it's absurd to imagine that they actually enable anybody to sell more items and make more money, especially in areas where everybody's got one. But I don't really think the idea of Noise Pollution has hit home here, and probably won't for quite awhile.

I was in Chongqing when Bo cleaned up the streets. Prior, there were some passages completely clogged up and pedestrians were forced into ever tighter paths (Chongqing is like 20 million people). On passages I used to cross all the time, I thought how unfair and annoying these vendors were. So after Bo cleaned up the city including getting rid of street vendors, pedestrian flow was 10x better. However, I then realized how boring the streets became. Everyone had more space and less stress walking around, but some charm did disappear. I hope this proposal works, as the perfect solution would be to trade off a little space in an organized and fair fashion, but as this is Kunming, expectations are pretty low.

Yes, I think Alex has a point. In Hangzhou (and other cities I have visited) it is organised. The vendors have a table and the tables are in clearly defined rows (some streets 4 rows, wider parts 6 rows). The pedestrians can navigate through the night markets.
The big advantage of tables is that you don't get the sprawl across the pavement, and there are clear walkthroughs. The other thing is that there are no people selling out of the trunk of the car, this alone takes up a lot of room.
Outside Sal's a few months back there was a problem, because there was no way to get onto the sidewalk to park a bike. Putting aside the rights and wrongs of who did what, it was the over abundance of street vendors that was the root cause.

@AlexKMG, That's a really interesting observation. I left Chongqing in 2007, which was pre Bo Xilai, and came back in 2011. I was shocked at the change, and agree, quite a bit of the charm disappeared. Quite a bit of the nastiness did as well.

I'm pretty new to Kunming, infrastructure-wise, it feels like Chongqing did when I first got there...shitty traffic and no public transportation. I mean, yea a bus...

If I've learned nothing else in China, it's that the government here is quite good at social engineering. Especially considering the scale they're working with...and the time constraints related to that.

This whole issue, to me, seems like an experiment. If it works, hooray, if not...

But, I do like the bit about the charm : ) Why does it seem like the whole city shuts down at 9pm?

I am curious about how the street sellers affect the performance of shops that actually pay high rent. In Xiaoximen and Beishiqu, some sellers would choose to sell in front of shops selling the same items. There also seems to be less people paying attention to the shops when the street sellers are there.

totally irrelevant, but @mmkunmingteacher, actually Salt Lake City proper is pretty awesome. Definitely more of a cultural vibe than you get in some western cities if you know where to look. ; )

What could be more natural? A Chinese farmers market/flea market/food festival. My biggest concern is how far from my home it will be.

Shyam, I don't understand what is natural about markets and festivals, but if they are, why aren't supermarkets 'natural'? Or are they?

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