Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Americans don't realize how well they have it made, at least in terms of driving.  The comments in the papers and online about such earth shattering problems such as bicycles rolling through stop signs and people texting at the traffic lights are kind of quaint when compared to Chinese drivers.  Our city is growing rapidly, and the road infrastructure is unable to keep up with the increase in cars and motorbikes that the improved economy has enabled.
Throw in a lack of traffic law enforcement and the local propensity for chaotic crowd behavior, and you get some exciting street action.
There are not enough traffic signals in this city.  The only way cars can merge out into a busy thoroughfare is to stick their noses out in front of the passing traffic, hope that they stop, then go.  The traffic yields, maybe honks, but the guy manages to get out.  Obviously buses are more successful at this maneuver than smaller vehicles.  This is a yielding culture when it comes to cars.
Pedestrians have to be alert at all times, since at any time or any place some kind of vehicle could ruin your day.  Electric stealth motorbikes on sidewalks are especially unnerving.
Traffic signals, where they do exist, are obeyed mostly by cars.  The rest of the driving public consider the lights an infringement on their right to operate stupidly.
Honking is constant.  Everyone honks when they want you out of the way, and pedestrians are at the bottom of the horn chain.  Buses honk at everyone, cars honk at everyone but buses, motorbikes honk at bicycles and pedestrians.  Motorbike taxis also honk when they want a rider, when they are entering an intersection without stopping, and just about all the rest of the time, too.  Their horns are shrill, and I'm sure that besides being douchebags, theses riders are also nigh deaf.  
One of my favorite sights is to see an elderly person bicycling at a leisurely pace down the street, with an irate car behind them blaring his horn.  They continue, placidly ignoring the horn as if to say, "I survived the Japanese, The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution.  No BMW is going to faze me, so pound salt, sonny!"
This is an intersection in my neighborhood.  I use it whenever I go to the supermarket.

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