Revitalizing China’s Urban Pedestrian and Cycling System
China’s rapid urbanization has spurred an explosion of motorized transport. Faced with severe congestion, many large cities have tried to improve the carrying capacity of their roads by expanding and enlarging them. This has not solved congestion problems and instead has stimulated further use of motor vehicles, leading to greater oil consumption and increased air pollution.
At the same time, walking and cycling have declined. Pedestrian walkways and bike lanes have become narrower and are used by small motor vehicles. Motorways lack pedestrian islands and crosswalks are widely spaced, forcing people out of their way to cross safely. Lanes for non-motorized traffic are used to park cars and trucks, and vehicles use them to make right turns, putting cyclists at risk. Cyclists, pedestrians, and cars are all forced to use the same space, and as a result traffic slows down.
Part of the problem is that urban transport is planned around motor vehicles. Incorporating green forms of transport—such as walking, cycling, and low-carbon public transport—into urban transportation networks would reduce congestion and pollution. The public should also be nudged to adopt “walking + public transport” and “cycling + public transport” modes of transportation.
To promote this model, the China Sustainable Cities Program (CSCP) formed partnerships with the cities of Kunming and Chongqing to expand pedestrian and cycling networks in Kunming’s Panlongjiang District and in Chongqing’s historic old quarter and the new districts to the north of the city.
In 2010, CSCP, in partnership with China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-rural Development (MOHURD) and the ministry’s think tank, the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, launched the “National Urban Non-motorized Transport Pilot Project.” The six participating cities—Chongqing, Hangzhou, Changshu, Kunshan, Kunming, and Jinan—prepared or revised plans for pedestrian/cycling networks in cities or districts; developed and promoted policies for the construction of such networks; created pilot areas with pedestrian and/or cycling facilities; or improved existing public cycling networks.
CSCP, China Sustainable Transportation Center, and an international group of experts worked in close partnership with the cities of Chongqing, Kunshan, Kunming, and Jinan to implement the project. In cooperation with China Academy of Urban Planning and Design they prepared the “Technical Guideline for China Urban Non-motorized Transportation System Planning and Design.”
In order to increase the scope and influence of the transport pilot project, in 2012 MOHURD added a second group of six participant cities. In 2014 the scope has grown to comprise 93 cities in the third phase of project.
Based on the success of the first two phases, MOHURD, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the Ministry of Finance on September 12, 2012, released the “Guidance for Strengthening the Construction of Urban Non-motorized Transportation System.” It was the first national policy guidance document on pedestrian and cycling transport systems. According to its requirements, by 2015 walking and cycling must account for at least 45 percent of journeys made by the public in cities with a population of over 10 million. For all other cities, this proportion must be no lower than 50–70 percent.
On December 31, 2013, MOHURD released the “Technical Guideline for China Urban Non-motorized Transportation System Planning and Design.” This is the only technical document published by the central government to date that promotes pedestrian and cycling networks. It provides technical guidelines for all levels of government to plan cities at all administrative levels and for their specific projects, and is also a reference for industry professionals on road improvement, road engineering, green urban road construction, and other topics relevant to pedestrian and cycling networks
To help governments and local industry professionals use the technical guideline to its greatest potential, MOHURD will hold a nationwide series of training and educational workshops. Through this and other channels, CSCP continues to provide support and international technical expertise to promote the construction of pedestrian and cycling networks.