Beijingers still take the (very) long road to work

A new survey has revealed that Beijingers still spend more time on the road traveling to and from work than people in any other city in China.

Put together by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the report, released last week, found that on average people in Beijing spent 38 minutes a day on the road, longer than people in the two second-worst places, the sprawling southern metropolises of Shanghai and Guangzhou, where it was claimed they spent 36 minutes a day on average doing the same thing.

It's little wonder that Beijing's roads are frequently blocked. The city now boasts more than 20 million people in its 1,289 square kilometers of space - and they move around in more than five million cars.

A survey last year - the IBM Global Commuter Pain Index - also had Beijing on top with the influx of new cars given the lion's share of the blame for people's gripes.

Sales of vehicles have risen rapidly in the capital - as China's overall wealth increases - with government statistics claiming 4.97 million vehicles were sold in the city from 2006 to 2010, more than 2.5 times the amount sold from 2000 to 2005.

There's been much debate in recent years about the amount of traffic that now clogs the roads of China's main cities, so much so that the country's rulers have sought to put a limit on the amount of new cars allowed to be bought.

In Beijing, authorities are "only" releasing 240,000 new license plates this year - at about 18,000 per month - but for the most recent lottery they received 577,856 applications, such is the demand for new cars. They are also increasing parking fees in downtown areas.

Overall, China's lust for motor vehicles is still astonishing, despite a recent drop in sales figures. The country in 2009 knocked the United States off its perch as the world's largest car market, a position it held on to last year with sales of more than 18 million.

And while there's little doubt about Beijing being the worst city in China when it comes to traffic, there appears to be significant chatter among netizens about exactly how many minutes the researchers came up with as the average - and how they went about it.

The same report last year claimed Beijing on top too but that the average daily commute took 52 minutes - far closer to what Beijingers themselves apparently believe is the actual case.

And the reason - uncovered by the Mirror Evening News - was , for reasons that remain unexplained, that this year's report did not take into account time spent in traffic congestion - a fact that is no doubt of little consolation to the people out there on the streets.

On the road ....

Time spent in traffic per day, in minutes:
1. Beijing 38
2. Shanghai and Guangzhou 36
4. Shenzhen 35
5. Nanjing 31
6. Chongqing 30
7. Tianjin 29
8. Wuhan 28
9. Chengdu 23
10. Hangzhou 22