Chinese Urban Planning Faces Major Hurdle

China's city planners are busy figuring out solutions to transportation issues at a time when the rapidly developing country has become the world's largest automobile market.
February 25, 2011, 5am PST | Shay Kahen
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Urban Planners hope that with enough foresight and planning, most Chinese will continue to get around town via walking or bicycling. They also hope that by 2015, one third of commuters will travel by mass transit, be it subways or buses, in major cities. This hasn't stopped however the increasingly prosperous Chinese urban residents from purchasing cars, adding to traffic congestion and air pollution.

"Reshuffling land use might be the solution, said Sumeeta Srinivasan, an urban planning expert at Harvard. Thanks to the high population density in Chinese cities, fitting office buildings, shopping malls and anything else that people need every day in proximity to where they live is a viable option. Then the Chinese can get it all by walking or by bike, she added.

Yet most Chinese cities were not designed in this way. Many dwellers have to flock into central areas of the city for work, study and leisure, creating 'tidal commuting,' said Ma Haibing, manager of the China Program at the Worldwatch Institute, a sustainable development research group based in Washington, D.C.

However, Ma continued, China's urban planners have realized the problem and have been adding missing features into neighborhoods."

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Published on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 in The New York Times
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