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Road nonsense in China

Popularity 25Viewed 20892 times 2013-5-1 22:08 |System category:Life| Chinese, road, sense

Fines for J-walking in Beijing?

There is a theory that the more protective laws you put into place, the less careful people are and the more accidents occur.

 I ponder about this every time I venture onto Chinese streets. In 9 months I have only witnessed one serious accident involving a car and a pedestrian, and 4 minor collisions involving cars and motorcycles. This is puzzling, as there appears to be no rules or courtesy on Chinese roads. Indeed there appears to be a complete lack of road sense as we know it in the west. I make no criticism but only observe.

Pedestrians just walk out into the road, sometimes without looking and in complete disregard to their safety. Motorcycles drive at speed down pavements and pull straight out into main roads without any regard to cars coming. Cars, taxis and lorries constantly weave across lanes to get in front of others, often cutting right in front of other vehicles. Pedestrian crossings and traffic lights are largely ignored by pedestrians, bicycles and motor-cycles.

I wonder why Chinese people can often be so friendly, polite and kind to each-other, and show such patience, yet as soon as they get on a road they are either crazy or completely unaware of the dangers.

Sometimes it is very funny to watch, such as traffic going in both directions of a roundabout. Or enormous traffic jams caused by cars that refuse to give way to oncoming traffic in narrow roads. Or parking anywhere they like, blocking pavements and side roads. Or motor-cycles so overloaded that you cannot see the driver. Or bicycles carrying small children perched on the back.

Road works are wonderful fun to watch. There is little planning concerning access ways. A road is simply dug up and the earth pushed right up to shop doorways. If it snows or rains this turns to thick mud so Chinese ladies, who love their high heeled shoes, sink up to their ankles.

As I plan to stay in China for some time, I am sometimes asked if I will buy a bicycle or even a car. I don’t think that is a good idea. I shall stick to being a pedestrian, using the wonderful bus system and the occasional taxi (sitting at the back as it scares me to see what we are avoiding).

I have come to realise though, that comparatively speaking, China has only recently become a widespread motor vehicle using country. I understand that only a few years ago few people owned cars, and pedestrians and bicycles ruled the roads. Lorries had to dodge them as necessary. They therefore feel it is their right to continue being masters of the road. The elderly have little understanding or regard for the dangers, and the young show little road sense. Car drivers only want to get to their destination as quickly as possible, giving no quarter to the needs of others. City roads in China are thereby battle fields where expensive and beautifully cared for cars are used as threatening weapons. Like lions, they challenge each-other until the weaker one gives way.

I also understand that in China it is often the larger vehicle that is blamed in any accident, so if a cyclist rides straight into a main road without looking and is knocked over by a car, it is the car’s fault! This is very interesting as it should make cars go more slowly and carefully… but it doesn’t!

And now the government here is concerned about people J-walking. Well, as traffic is set to double over the next few years, I suppose they have to start somewhere.  But for the moment I shall continue using the roads with utmost care and respect, and shall ensure that my medical insurance is up to date.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Comment Comment (20 comments)

Reply Report voice_cd 2013-5-2 09:02
your blog has been highlighted onto the homepage of the blog and the forum. Hope more discussion would be on stage about the jaywalking in China. Thanks.
Reply Report BoMiller 2013-5-2 17:53
The Chinese do not want anyone meddling in their internal political affairs, it would only be polite to let them figure out their own road rules.
Reply Report pingcheninfl 2013-5-2 21:22
Those crazy Chinese need to come to the West to have a few raised middle finger combined with a few choice STD words yelled at them to learn the rules of the road. We use our cruise control and is practically on every new car. They have automatic folding rear view mirrors. What does that say about a country or cities's car density (cars per unit of road)?  Relax, know your car's footprint and move forward or someone else will.  And dont forget to fold your mirrors.
Reply Report Kevinfly 2013-5-2 23:39
I have heard that almost every foreigner fells so uncomfortball with chinese triffic. As an chinese, I don't like it either, I never across street when the red light is on, hope everyone cherish their safety.
Reply Report Ny321 2013-5-3 13:13
pingcheninfl: Those crazy Chinese need to come to the West to have a few raised middle finger combined with a few choice STD words yelled at them to learn the rules ...
When I am driving on a road in the West, I feel more safe when I  encounter Chinese drivers.

The problem is that if a Chinese driver commits some offense while driving, the public tends to generalize that most Chinese drivers are bad!
Reply Report my19940202 2013-5-5 21:14
most of us  have used to cross streets this way,we all think drivers dare not ran into pedestrians ,  sometimes the streets become  crowded due to this.
Reply Report voice_cd 2013-5-6 11:24
BoMiller: The Chinese do not want anyone meddling in their internal political affairs, it would only be polite to let them figure out their own road rules.
you can talk about what you oberve like Ted did here. No criticism no improvement.
Reply Report BoMiller 2013-5-6 18:24
Thank you for your kind words. A "no criticism" and "no improvement" clause is very helpful guide lines for future posts.
Reply Report xuwenju 2013-5-7 21:52
i admit the fact. though i am Chinese。
Reply Report idorun 2013-5-8 05:14
To many people , some are not educated to the car in China
Reply Report RonJaDa 2013-5-9 18:50
I have been amazed at how few accidents I have seen in China and the ones I have seen appear to cause relatively minor damage.  I am always careful walking across crosswalks and with green lights here in China or any other country I happen to be in.  In Canada cars must and usually do stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian, if the pedestrian is within three feet of the intersection on a walk signal.  
I have noticed in several cities in China, several cars will speed through the intersection cutting off pedestrians who have the legal right of way.  Sometimes it is not safe to walk out into the intersection until there are only 2 seconds left on the walk signal. Then the pedestrians are faced with j-walking or waiting at the light indefinitely. Until the drivers allow the pedestrians to cross on walk signals they have to go when there is a break in the traffic even if there is no walk signal.  These traffic problems exist in different degrees in every country and whether j-walking or crossing legally pedestrians must watch the traffic or become an accident statistic.  
A lot of people believe it is safer to j-walk than to cross at a cross walk.  This is because some people have a false sense of security provided by crossing when you have the right of way.  The safest way is to cross legally but always be alert and cross with caution.
Reply Report O26 2013-5-15 09:28
this is China style and it is necessary to improve the awareness of jaywalking
Reply Report weisenheimer 2013-5-24 09:30
Good text - nothing new - but all true. I drove more than 40,000km on Chinese roads and I am from Western Europe. It took me a while to adapt to this 'system'. So far, luckily, I had no accident. When I experience weird or dangerous situations in Europe I am very upset and tell my family, friends and collegues and remember all my life (I guess this happens maybe once or twice per year). Here in China the unexpected happens nearly daily. Therefore, I had to come up with my own - arrogant - system to survive:  I treat all other people involved in traffic in China as deaf and blind idiots (sorry, no personal affront!). This means I have to be on a stressful permanent high alert. Everybody could harm my safety any second. Basically we should be on high alert no matter where in the world but here in China it is essential.
Reply Report ManfromEngland 2013-6-20 09:45
I have seen a lot of crashes lately involving buses or trucks turning right at traffic lights without taking care of pedestrians or people on bikes.  I have actually seen brain on the floor from where someone was crushed under a coach.  Crossing the road and driving should be at different times.  All traffic should be stopped when people are crossing the road.  I have also seen lots of accidents where I live because of people driving through red lights.  I even stopped as a witness and told the police that the car drove through a red light and hit an ebike at high speed.  I never got a call though so the guy obviously paid off the person he hit.  

I also drive a car in China.  In the city its not too bad as no one can drive very fast most of the time but its a different story on the highway.  Looking through my windscreen, its like watching a computer game.  Its crazy.  People dont care about how they are driving or the risk they put on others.  People are always using the hard shoulder to undertake and then speed back into the slow lane.  I think many accidents are caused because of this.

I am very surprised that more accidents don't happen.
Reply Report Bloke 2013-6-23 10:11
After 24 years of my life I had been to 20 countries before coming to China, living 23 of those years in Australia. In that time I had seen less than 5 accidents. Within 6 months of living in Chang Chun I had seen over 100 accidents. Only 3 or 4 of them bad, most minor hits but the cars remained on the road blocking traffic.

This is not judgement, this is fact. Take this information how you will.
Reply Report Viceroy 2013-6-26 09:55
Yeah! Right!!!
The Chinese don't want anybody meddling with their internal affairs but they sure are nosy and 100% meddlers in other countries internal affairs. Their egoistic attitude will surely bring them down to the frying pan as fried Chinese Chickens.
Reply Report Englishgent 2013-7-3 16:50
I've seen many accidents all over the world and given Chinese driving "styles" i'm amazed I haven't seen more here. I think China just needs time to develop the laws which work for them and then enforce them properly.

I have noticed that cars turn right at traffic lights regardless of whether the lights are red or not, I think (Americans please correct me if i'm wrong), you can do this in  America, but there not many people walk.

I also witnessed in Shanghai a bus driver who forgot to turn left on the route so he turned round in a one way street and drove back against the traffic. That wasn't funny, but watching drivers park here in Shanghai can give light entertainment.
Reply Report Boilermaker21 2013-7-10 15:40
There are actually quite a few both written and unspoken rules of the road in China. They are available in English if you go to a search engine. The problem is that they are seldom enforced. I live in a second tier city in China, and the traffic police only "ticket" bad drivers when they are in need of money.
Reply Report mike4u 2013-7-26 10:15
they get money and can bargain on compensation, whether its their mistake or not, the vehicle driver will be accused
Reply Report SEARU 2014-3-31 05:51
A  good  article  !    His   writing  is  so  attractive  that   I  will   read  it  once  more .

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