Or, It's All About the Timing
Thursday 2 Aug 2007
A says: I’ve been here for 2 ½ weeks and I have to say I am fascinated by the way they drive here. It seems on the surface to be a totally conventional highway system. There are painted lines on the road. There are traffic signals and the occasional traffic cop. They even drive on the right side of the road here--just like home. But that is where the similarity ends. When the lights turn green (and sometimes even when they don’t!) an odd combination of ballet and donnybrook ensues on the thoroughfares. Suddenly you see Chinese creativity kick in. Not happy with your position on the street—not thinking too highly of the lane you’re in? Simple—create a lane of your own. It’s a wonder to behold. There you are sitting in the backseat of a taxi with buses and trucks and other cars all jockeying to get to wherever you are going FIRST and coming within tenths of inches from where you are sitting. (Nothing like looking out the window of the cab you’ve hired to find the headlight of a tour bus staring back at point blank range!) And it’s not just the motor vehicles involved with this little dance. Add to it bicycles, tricycles, rickshaws, mopeds, and finally, pedestrians, you gotta disaster movie just waiting to happen. Traveling the roads in China in any mode mentioned takes a certain amount of chudspah—or maybe PRAYER! Or maybe it’s just a matter of timing.
You Seinfeld fans out there have the advantage when I say that traffic in China is similar to that episode where George tries to save his high score on the Frogger machine. He tries to cross the road while dodging cars, backtracking and sidestepping in an attempt to push the machine to the other side—just like the little frog in the Frogger game. You just have to watch out for the buses. A guide warned me, “Buses in China don’t stop!” A little like the truck in the Seinfeld episode, wouldn’t you say? So if you come to China, remember that little bit of advice. And if anyone ever offers you a rental car, DON’T TAKE IT!!! Your insurance company will thank you!