If you happily made a reservation, as required by Shenzhen traffic police, to visit Dapeng Peninsula on May 1, you would still end up in heavy traffic on the roads, find it hard to park your car, and get lost in a sea of faces on the picturesque beaches.
Living in a city of more than 13 million people who own more than 3.3 million vehicles, you actually cannot ask for a quiet small-town lifestyle while enjoying its economic boom and colorful metropolitan cityscape.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Shenzhen is the most densely populated Chinese city, with 5,963 people living in one square kilometer of land. The per capita disposable income of this huge number of Shenzhen citizens last year, according to official statistics, reached 57,543 yuan (US$8,550). Well, when you are given a few days off and some extra money to spend, you certainly want to go out and have fun.
Traffic jams were not just seen on the roads to the city’s east coast, but on all major roads in and out of the city as well, as many holidaymakers took the opportunity to explore nearby Pearl River Delta cities. Free access to expressways during national holidays aggravates the problem. Going through the tollgates without stopping to pay saves a few seconds for each vehicle to pass, but puts much more traffic on the roads. We all want to enjoy things for free – it’s part of human nature.
Charging extra money for using the roads and car parks at destinations and hiking the entrance ticket prices to scenic spots will solve the problem, to some extent. Economic leverage is always effective for reaching an objective, but no one will like such a solution.
One possible solution, which has been raised before, is to encourage employers to give paid leave to employees, so that they won’t have to join the huge crowd of public holidaymakers, and can plan a more leisurely holiday of their own. That is not an easy target, however, given that many private companies do not want to sacrifice profits for the extra down time, and many career-driven employees do not want to sacrifice any possible opportunity up the ladder for some decent me time. Just think of the heated discussion of the “996” (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week) working schedule not long ago. Though not an easy way out, flexible paid leave should be encouraged.
In fact, the local traffic police’s solution of online reservation for using the roads that lead to the eastern coasts is still a good solution, but I surmise their statistics were not well-calculated, and they put a bigger-than-appropriate cap on the allowed number of reservations. The capacity of the scenic spots and car parks should be taken into consideration when deciding the maximum vehicles allowed into those areas.
When Metro Line 8 opens next year, the heavy road traffic on holidays to the eastern coasts might be alleviated, but you still cannot avoid the huge crowds on the beaches unless the authorities allow much fewer reserved daily entrants into the free parks, or you pay to use the private beach of a luxury resort.
(The author is a features editor at Shenzhen Daily.)