Friday, September 21, 2007


Traffic in Beijing is weird
The first time I got in to a cab I thought we were going to die. We drove at 45 mph through busy streets, disobeying traffic lanes and stoplights.
Everyone drives like this.
A few rules:
If someone's in your way, honk. It doesn't matter if they're waiting for someone in front to move, it doesn't matter if they're re-paving the street, just honk.
Streetlights and crosswalks are just there for show. If you think it's possible to cross the intersection, do so by all means.
How many cars wide is this lane really? do you think maybe just maybe you could fit between those two busses? Well there's only one way to find out!
Does that bicycle lane (divided from the main street by a concrete barrier) look kind of empty? Well then drive right in! If a few cyclists get in your way, don't worry. Honk.

Here's the thing: it's safer than back home. I don't look both ways before crossing the street any more.
If someone's coming, I know they'll honk. No would ever hit a pedestrian without seeing them because pedestrians have the same attitude toward traffic laws that drivers do: I swear I see a guy walk across six lanes of traffic against the light every day. I've seen people drive by each other with at high speed with inches of clearance (I'll convert my anecdotes to metric later), I've seen city busses honking at old men on bicycles, I've seen people riding motorized scooters through a gridlocked intersection, everyone honking all the way. Drivers expect that if you see them, no matter if they've got a red light and you're in a crosswalk, you won't get in front of their car. If a car approaches you from behind, even if you're walking down the middle of an expressway, it'll slow down and ever so politely honk until you move.
It's beautiful, it all works, no one expects anyone else to follow any rules except seeking the shortest path from A to B. Nobody hits anybody else because they've got the right of way. Everybody's always watching. You never know when a tricycle pulling a wagon loaded with cardboard will pull into the fast lane.


Leia said...

toby, this is hilarious. thanks!

zacharyr said...

Ah yeah. In Italy I think the logic is to only look out for the front of your car. They don't bother with mirrors. This works because any collision is always the front of the car hitting something else, so as long as everyone takes care of their front there aren't any problems.

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