China's No Car Day has little impact on driving habits

Motorists appeared to largely ignore China's first No Car Day held on Saturday as part of a campaign to reduce smog ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Motorists appeared to largely ignore China's first No Car Day held on Saturday as part of a campaign to reduce smog ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

More than 100 cities across the country were urging people to leave their cars at home and do what the Chinese used to do in droves: ride a bicycle.

The campaign alsoencouraged people to walkor take public transportation like buses, subways and taxis rather than drive private cars.

Foreign journalistsin the capital, Beijing, reported high levels of traffic and most streets open as normal.

Owning an automobile in the world's fastest growing economy has become such a status symbol that many bicycle riders say they are the victims of a new prejudice.

Wan Zhu Gong, a 33-year-old man in Shanghai, said being a cyclist isn't so easy anymore.

"There's a prejudice against bicycles these days," he told CBC News. "We're banned from riding on many roads."

Before the 1980s, millions of bicycles packed China's city streets; buying a car for personal use was illegal.

Nowadays, China is whereautomakers around the world are staking their future.

There are about 25 million cars in China, but in Beijing alone, 1,000 new automobiles hit the streets every day. By 2020, the country is expected to have a whopping 140 million cars.

Last month, the president of the International Olympic Committee acknowledged that some endurance events might have to be postponed because of air pollution.