Sunday, 19 September 2010

Jam Packed

I don't drive. It's not really for any environmental principal, I simply never learnt as a teenager and since leaving home have always lived in a very centralised area, with good access to public transport. I understand that for some people a car is essential, especially for those in remote areas, but I'd still love to see more investment in bio-fuels and eco friendly alternatives, as I assume a lot of people would. One thing that recently reinforced this feeling was the recent story of a series of traffic jams in Beijing at the end of August/beginning of September that in one case lasted more than nine days. 9 days!!!! And I used to think a twenty minute delay on Newcastle's Western By Pass was bad.

One of the tailbacks (yes there was more than one), going back 75 miles involved 10,000 vehicles and was blamed on road works. Apparently China's authorities are having trouble keeping up with the demand for new roads, despite an extensive building plan. The whole thing wigs me out even more as I cannot help be reminded of an episode of Doctor Who a few years back where the citizens of a future New York were trapped in a never-ending traffic jam lasting years, with people forced to live in their cars as the fumes and pollution were so bad. Obviously we're still a fair bit off from that, but as populations grow along with the demand for quick and easy transport, it's not unreasonable to wonder how the planet will cope.

One alternative currently under development in Beijing is something called a Straddle Bus, a bus hoisted on seven foot tall legs, with a tunnel like gap in the bottom in order to let cars pass under and through. It will be powered by electricity and solar power, with scanners on the legs to alert other cars as to safe distance and height. It's a strange and fascinating idea, but probably fraught with all kinds of safety questions and only really a drop in the ocean for city that is expected to have 8 million cars and counting by 2015. But I'll be interested to see how it turns out and if similar projects can be applied to other congested cities.

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