Thursday, November 05, 2009


The Observation of the Day is all about the driving and the roads. First, going through business districts, there are 8-lane roads. On the outside, closest to the sidewalk is a bike lane that is the size of a regular car lane. Next to that is the bus/trolley lane. Everything is great until the bus pulls over at a bus stop , which is in the bike lane, to let people on and off and cuts off all the bikers in the bike lane and all the bikers have to come to a slamming halt. It's a bit hair-raising to the westerner but the Chinese take it in stride. It's kinda funny to watch.

Then next to the bus lane is anywhere from 2 to 4 car lanes. And we are not talking about a highway. We are talking about a downtown street - one of many just like this. Unlike India, all the lanes are clearly marked and in fact, even appear to be freshly painted - that bright white! People in China drive in the lanes better than do in India (an understatement to be sure).

There is a metal fencing barrier that is about 3-ft high in the middle that separates the lanes going in the other direction. This is the median.

There are hardly any cross walks, not even at the traffic corners, and people just walk out in the middle of this traffic and stand on the white line and scurry lane to lane. And even if you were in the cross walk, the cars don't stop; it only means there is an opening through the fencing so you do not have to step over.

Crossing the street is like a game of Frogger. I'm surprised we haven seen anyone squashed! In the US, everyone trying this would be killed and you'd have enough lawsuits to drain the Federal Reserve. But here, common sense seems to be a personal responsibility and lack of judgment is not tolerated. At one point Joe decided to be Chinese, stepped out in front of traffic with our son in tow - *GAH!* - and managed to stop 3 lanes of traffic. I quickly followed. And the cars started honking AT ME!! Jeez!

At another point when we were lost in the taxi going back to the hotel from dinner, the driver sort of pulled over to the side of one of these "super roads" and the cars just went whizzing by us. No one honked and no one slowed down.

Oh and there are no breakdown lanes. The roads are flush with the sidewalk and the metal fencing. Of course in the neighborhoods, there are sidewalks which are surprisingly wide. Wide enough for at least 3 people which goes with my earlier comment about how fit everyone seems to be.
One day we passed by a big accident. No one slowed down to gawk so the traffic kept moving quickly.

The other side observation is that the Chinese here Know. How. To. Drive. Imagine. A country filled with Asian Drivers and they can drive well! Seriously. Not many Americans could drive here. Cars squeeze by with an inch of room on either side. It's so smooth it reminds me of a dance. Makes me wonder where all those Asian driver jokes came from! LOL!

And the bikers give new meaning to "riding in traffic.". They are everywhere. All ages, even very old! Some of the bikes have 3 wheels and a cargo on the pack which usually piled high 6 ft tall with "stuff in sacks." And not a single fancy bike among them - they are all old and gray, which of course, might be attributed to the gray smog that covers everything. And not a single helmet! Cars and bike co-exist quite nicely!

There are also these "sky bridges" for pedestrians along the busiest street so people can safely cross the street. Of course, that doesn't seem to stop the occasional game of Frogger.

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