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July 22, 2008

Air Quality: Will it Really Improve?

Sunday marked a milestone in the effort to clear the air before athletes arrive. The city launched a new subway line and took half of Beijing’s private vehicles off the roads, reducing traffic significantly. So far the restrictions seem to be working as planned -- with the exception of taxis and buses, vehicles began to follow even/odd driving days on July 20. I paid close attention to license plate numbers on Monday (an odd day) and Tuesday (an even day) and didn’t spot a single violator.

A new subway line (#10), already packed to the gills on opening day, will help Beijingers get to their destinations without clogging the motorways. Dedicated Olympic lanes aren’t reducing pollution, but provide an artery for permitted vehicles to zip past traffic while on official Olympic business.

Meanwhile, according to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. athletes are considering wearing facemasks while in Beijing. The article states that the U.S. Olympic Committee has already begun distributing masks to its Olympians. I’ve actually been surprised by how few people I’ve seen wearing masks in the city -- only two so far. The first was spotted at the Sanlitun Apple Store opening, worn by a Korean celebrity, and the second I noticed during a visit to the Beijing Zoo.


With the exception of the first couple days, I haven’t had any issues with the air quality, though if my chances of winning a gold medal were inhibited by difficulty breathing, I’m sure I’d consider wearing a mask too.

Thanks, Bert, for the tip.


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Air Monitoring

I have was doing some research on the quality of air in Beijing and found your post. Thanks for the information. I will find out what it is like and post the update here.

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