Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Outside the doors of the enormous, 56-day old, conference hotel in Tianjin all I saw of this ‘small’ city (10 million people) that is 100km from Bejing was from the window of cars taking me from and to the airport: vast numbers of huge new buildings appearing through the yellow pollution haze of a still day; forests of tall cranes building new tower blocks; and too many cars.

One of my colleagues told me that when he visited the city 30 years ago there wasn’t a car to be seen. In terms of sheer numbers the bicycles are still in the majority, but it is the cars that dominate and clog the streets. The accident rate must be enormous, especially as neither cyclists nor motorists seem to have any sense of lane discipline.

Sitting in a traffic jam, with only the cyclists moving, it does seem that urban planners in China have missed a trick.

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