What was a 15-minute drive to drop their children off at school has now turned into an hour-long ordeal for some parents of children attending schools in the Laiguangying area of northeastern Chaoyang due to the abrupt closure of the Beijing Capital International Airport’s Beigao highway on-ramps Jan 16.
The rerouting means that for residents of the nearby Laiguangying and Cuigezhuang areas, or those that drop their children off at nearby schools like WAB, Harrow and Daystar Academy, have a far less direct way of accessing the highway that most depend on for getting downtown.
City planners made the closures to relieve traffic pressure on the notoriously congested Airport Highway, but local residents say that the move has made their lives much more inconvenient and resulted in traffic in the neighborhood becoming much worse.
Ms. Choi, a parent living in the area (who would only give her surname), said she was compelled to sign a petition to have the ramps reopened, because the recent highway issues have wreaked havoc on her children’s school commute.
“You can imagine a big school bus, stuck on the road for hours for no good reason, wasting my children’s time and delaying their lessons,” she said, adding that she was also frustrated by the lack of advance notice from the authorities about the reroute.
Ms. Li, a WAB parent that has lived in the area since 2006 (who also declined to give her first name), has even more pressing concerns about the area’s clogged traffic: that the closure of the ramp has prompted aggressive drivers to misuse emergency lanes on nearby roads.
"Where else can emergency lanes be abused like this? China only," Li said. "The government agency chose the wrong target. Closing the ramp has resulted in further congestion on all the neighboring roads."
Those looking to access the highway will now have to travel northward to the Weigou or Tianzhu onramps, or southward to the Fifth Ring Road.
Suggested alternate routes include using the old airport road or Jingmi Road, which both run parallel to the Airport Expressway, or alternate highways such as taking the Jingping Highway and connecting up to the Jingcheng Highway.
Helen Han doesn’t share Li’s frustrations, but she is alarmed by the precedence that the road blockage might set. As a parent living in the Houshayu area on Shunyi, she said she is not a daily commuter and has yet to be immediately affected. But she has signed the petition because the rerouting has left her wondering: "Will there be [additional]closures of entrances alongside the Airport Express? Will there be similar announcements regarding traffic control by the government without consulting local residents?… This really sets a bad example."
Voicing such frustrations with a petition may seem fruitless, but the amassing of such signatures is by no means unheard of; not necessarily as an effective tool for change, but as a way to raise awareness. This past summer, 600,000 doctors in Guangdong province signed a petition to highlight the attacks they have endured by disgruntled patients.
The BBC says other such campaigns are the “last resort” and rarely elicit official response, much less the change that they desire.
No word yet on whether a reversion is in order, but we’d recommend against holding your breath.