Any day now Beijing will have its 4 millionth car on its streets.
On Sunday the number of cars was 3.99 million, according to the municipal traffic management bureau. And with about 2,000 new cars on the roads each day, the total will top 4 million by this weekend.
"Compared with other metropolises in the world, the growth of vehicles in Beijing is dramatic," said Guo Jifu, a researcher with the Beijing Municipal Communication Research Center.
He said it took the capital 48 years to make the number of cars grow from 2,300 in 1949 to its first 1 million in 1997. The second million came in six and a half years, the third in three years and nine months, and now the fourth million in only two years and seven months.
Meanwhile it took Tokyo 12 years to jump from 3 million to 4 million, Guo observed.
Is this supposed to be some badge of honour for Beijing to carry, to have pride in having so many cars in the city?
In fact it is an embarrassing result of city planners not having the foresight to build good public transportation routes and real estate developments around them. Now the use of cars in Beijing is more frequent than other big cities in the world. The daily traveling distance of a car here is 45km, while in Tokyo it's 19km and 30km in London, said Guo.
"The cars in the cities overseas are mostly used in the outskirts, but in Beijing they mainly run in the urban areas. That's why they have better traffic conditions than Beijing even though they have many more cars," he said.
Hopefully this magic number of 4 million will make city officials wake up and realize that they had better do some better planning -- and that doesn't mean more roads -- to keep car usage down. At this rate Beijing's roads will soon become parking lots despite the municipal government's measure after the Olympics last year to take 20 percent of the cars off the roads Monday to Friday.
What's the point of having a car if you're just sitting in traffic all day and wasting fossil fuels? If China wants to be seen as being more green, why not be the world leader in setting up a network of electricity-charging stations and promote the sales of electric cars?
Maybe then people would take China more seriously in its pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions.