The Transport Ministry has decided to reflect local views in the use of roads near railway stations and shopping streets, according to ministry officials.

By having residents participate in planning, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport wants to reflect people’s ideas in projects such as pedestrian zones with sidewalk cafes and designating parts of roads for bicycles on the weekends, the officials said.

The policy aims to make pedestrians and bicycles use roads more effectively and to respond to different needs in different areas, they said.

The ministry plans to include the new policy in its budget request for fiscal 2002, which starts April 1.

For example, barrier-free roads are expected to be promoted near railway stations. To reduce traffic congestion, roads could be used as parking lots between certain hours or on certain days, they said.

Other ideas include temporarily closing roads to motor vehicles and allowing street stalls in shopping roads.

Local residents, personnel involved in road affairs, local governments and the central government will together draw up plans on the use and improvement of road space including around railway stations, according to the officials.

The plans will incorporate factors such as improvements to sidewalks, railway stations and necessary infrastructure, as well as traffic regulations, they said. , adding that the responsibilities and roles of personnel involved in the planning will be stipulated.

Gas called green

The government plans to include gasoline-powered vehicles in its plan to replace official vehicles with low-emission vehicles should they meet a given standard, government officials said Saturday.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has promised to complete the low-emission plan by the end of fiscal 2004 and is also expected to ask for similar replacements in local governments across the nation.

The government had been considering designating only natural gas, electric, methanol and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles as low pollution.

But it is now set to include some gasoline-powered vehicles in the plan if they attain the same emission performance as hybrid vehicles, the officials said.

The policy change partly reflects the relatively slow adoption by members of the public of the four types of low-emission vehicles, the officials said.

Production systems and infrastructure for these vehicles, which depend on electricity, natural gas and methanol are experiencing delays.

Some gasoline-powered vehicles achieve emission levels almost as low as hybrid vehicles.

“We didn’t expect gasoline vehicles to attain such a low pollution level,” an Environment Ministry official said.

The government is expected to focus on hybrid vehicles and low-emission gasoline vehicles as the most appropriate for replacing official vehicles under its plan.

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