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Carpooling gets legal support in Beijing

2014-01-06 16:08 CRIENGLISH.com Web Editor: Yao Lan

Authorities here in Beijing have officially sanctified car-pooling as an option for motorists to get too and from work.

The announcement includes a detailed definition of two types of carpooling, depending on the frequency and distance of the shared journey. But the key message is that passengers and drivers should sign a mutual agreement on the expense, itinerary and who should be held responsible in the event of an accident.

Yan Linhai, from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport, explains why taking this precaution is necessary.

"An agreement in written form ensures that every one, including the driver and passengers, are aware of their obligation and responsibility. It serves as a legal basis if any disputes take place."

Previously in Beijing, carpooling involving money was banned.

Drivers who accepted money from their passengers could face hefty fines. Differentiating carpooling from unlicensed taxi servicing has always been an intricate task for traffic police.

Liu Tao, a lawyer, says it depends on whether the driver is taking on passengers for the purpose of making profits.

"I think the government is sending a positive message by releasing this announcement. But the announcement should clarify that carpooling is not a way of gaining profit. The costs one has to pay for carpooling with another should just cover the basic costs. "

In the announcement, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport also acknowledged the contribution of carpooling in helping to ease the capital's traffic congestion and air pollution.

Wang Yong, founder of Shunfengche, an organization dedicated to promoting carpooling among Beijingers, lists a few numbers to show the benefits of carpooling.

"According to our survey, in Beijing, over 80% of the cars on the road during the morning rush hour carry the driver as the only passenger. If they carry two passengers instead, it will reduce 10% of the traffic flow. That's a huge contribution to the city's traffic congestion."

Wang Yong and his colleagues even created a "Carpool Day" to encourage more people to join in the practice. Their carpooling campaign has drawn a lot of followers.

"I am an advocate for carpooling. It's more than necessary given the deteriorating air pollution in Beijing. I believe that with the introduction of the announcement on carpooling, the air quality in Beijing will improve in the future."

Now with the Spring Festival travel peak season just around the corner, carpooling is a popular choice among young people.

Yan Linhai, from Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport, offers his advice on travel safety for people who plan to share their homecoming trip with others.

"We encourage carpooling and will issue more regulations on this practice. But currently, to better protect the rights and benefits of people who participate in carpooling, a pre-signed agreement is very important. "

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