Beijing congestion control

Beijing is surrounded by three large ring roads. The city seems to be built layers by layer like an onion. The ring roads and the main intersecting streets are spacey with broad parallel lanes, many with three or more lanes for cars while some areas are of an older date with narrow streets. In the city centre the bikes have their own generous lanes and pedestrians are cared for by broad side walks and bridges and tunnels for passing the most hectic streets.


The bazaars of the Silk Street house are popular for shopping both by tourists and for locals. If I understood the situation right many Chinese come in groups from the suburbs by bus. There were plenty of parking lots for buses next to the shopping area while cars only rarely can find an empty space nowadays.

In the morning the 26th of November I went jogging, from my hotel (New Otani) to an around the Forbidden City, some 12 kilometres in total. The air may seem hazy and the brown-reddish horizon seen from the 23rd floor, reveals pollutions of nitrogen oxides, mainly from power plants in the suburbs. But, Beijing authorities apply emission restrictions for the central part of Beijing. This has an immediate positive effect on the local air quality in the city center.

The city buses are equipped with Euro IV engines or have been upgraded by retrofit of SCR catalysts and particulate filters. In fact, I don’t see any black smoke and do not experience much irritant emissions in the streets. Dirty two wheelers have been banned to the favour of electric bikes and mopeds. I was completely fascinated by the electric bikes in all shapes and colours. I have now bought a brushless electric motor for my trike. I am sure I will get reasons to get back to the progress of my green hobby. I saw no trucks, what so ever, in the city centre.


Cars are in general new and equipped with three way catalysts. There are lots of cars. During the most dense hours the cars blocks the streets and limit the traffic flow also for buses. I see some that chose to walk a bus stop or two to catch up with another bus. Some Chinese tourists are early birds, like me, and takes photos of each other in front of chairman Mao’s portrait at the entrance of the forbidden city.

Right there, next to the entrance a large number of bus routes connect. I count 15 route numbers at the time table, without being able to encrypt the destinations written in Chinese I assume that most buses travel in two directions. The intervals between the buses are 4 to 10 minutes with variation between the routes. The bus speed is limited by the cars blocking the streets. Proper Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines would have improved the flow. An interesting “work around” to solve the almost impossible task to bring 15 bus lines to the side walk. Bejing has invented the flexible bus stop, personnel with signs guide the buses to the passengers and the passengers to the buses. If one position is blocked the bus stop for the next bus is moved back or forth or to the next lane. Both bus and passengers follows the sign. -A pragmatic solution that seems to fill its purpose.

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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