by Toffler

Toffler

Toffler

Death-Defying Traffic in China

September 26, 2006, by TofflerN, category Knowledge and Experiences

Traffic in Shanghai and Beijing, and presumably in all overcrowded Traffic in Shanghai megacities in China, is dangerous, maddening, frightening, bordering on death- defying. Due to lax enforcement, traffic laws are little more than suggestions and lanes no more than distracting lines on the street. The only regulator of traffic seems to be stop lights but motorscooters, bicycles, and right-hand turners don’t even seem to heed the lights. And honestly, I often walk when the ‘Don’t Walk’ sign is lit.

With scooters and bikes swerving in and out of traffic and taxis stopping without warning, one begins to develop respect for the drivers who avoid crashes and become awed by their awareness and responsiveness. Though seeing accidents is Shanghai seems rare, China actually has a very high accident rate as a whole. The rate sounds low when compared with the US; however, when compared with the US’s rate as a per car ratio, China actually has a serious accident rate that is 10-times(!) that of the U.S.

For pedestrians, it isn’t any easier. As bikes and motorscooters come around the corner at full speed, even though they have a red light, with the only warning being another loud noise, its pedestrians beware. Sidewalks aren’t safe either as bikes and motorscooters and 3-wheeled carts often think the sidewalk is there highway. They also zip in and out of seemingly abandoned driveways and alleyways that cut across sidewalks. Though most major intersections have crosswalks and indicator signals, again, these are merely suggestions.

When, as a pedestrian, facing the onslaught of vehicles, I asked my Shanghainese friend, how do you tell whose turn it is? Her perfectly serious response, “Whoever has more power.” I laughed, thinking that’s a scary way to decide, not to mention if that’s seriously true, pedestrians would never get anywhere (which, of course, is not the case). So we discuss it and eventually decide whoever goes is whoever dares to go. Of course, taxis can’t purposely run down pedestrians and pedestrians don’t willingly walk in front of a speeding taxi. So ultimately it comes down to whoever dares to go in the expectation the other is less aggressive and so will avoid a collision. It took me about 2 weeks of being in Shanghai before I was able to leave my apartment without expecting to die every time I crossed the street. Needless to say, the fear of Shanghai traffic is not easily overcome.

In many ways the traffic (at least in SH & BJ) is a microcosm of Chinese culture itself. Its selfish, aggressive, impatient, high-pressure, and defiant of laws and regulations in the absence of enforcement. Is this an adolescent phase in Chinese culture (transitional period in China’s traffic/driving development) or this a permanent characteristic of Chinese society (destiny of China’s driving conditions due to lack of planning)? ?

2 Comments

  1. Luke |

    A few years ago, my cousin came from the mainland to Toronto to study accounting. Naturally, she experienced a degree of culture shock. But the first thing she pointed out to us?

    “In China, people are afraid of cars. In Canada, cars are afraid of people.”

  2. mikthy |

    aha, be a chinese, especially a shanghainess, the problem really embarrassed me very much. ok, let me talk about it in chinese.

    这种混乱的局面的确存在于我们的日常生活中,并且在北京等大城市屡见不鲜.我们常常可以听到对于糟糕的交通的抱怨,比如塞车。

    当我去北京旅行时,出租车司机风趣的说,如果北京不堵车那就不是北京了,诧异的同时更多的是无奈。
    ——————————————————

    我们的城市每年都建造许多的轨道交通和高架道路来缓解和分流交通需求,并且积极调整出行路线的费用以分流人群.但遗憾的是,膨胀的交通需求和我们的建设速度不能持平。我们只有期待明天会更好。
    ————————————————————
    上次和TOFFLER一行去BONBON的时候,我惊奇的发现老外们也开始学会乱穿马路了。在我们的土地上,这让我感到难为情。尽管我从不乱穿马路。
    ———————————————————-
    曾经为了拍摄一部记录片,我曾和一群交通警察相处了整整一个夏天。
    同时也了解到了一些事实。

    作为执法人员,交通警察和刑事警察,在国人的观念中有着很大的身份悬殊。在很多中国人的认识中,只有803刑警才是真正的警察,他们和犯罪分子搏斗,是英雄。而交通警察只是在马路上找茬的家伙,只是做些鸡毛蒜皮的小事。

    交通警察,甚至交通法的地位并没有得到足够的重视。但另一个事实是,美国警察在喊STOP的时候可以举枪,而中国警察不被允许。他们的权限某种程度上也影响到执法的效果。
    ————————————————–
    关于民族文化特性的问题。。。某种程度上,这可能是对于人本的认识根源问题。

    一些人们往往忽略了一点,遵守规则不仅是为了别人,更多的是为了保障自己。

    正如LUKE 提到的:“In China, people are afraid of cars. In Canada, cars are afraid of people.”

    无论如何,尊重他人的生命也是在尊重自己的生命,我们可以理解为这是一个帮助别人以善自己的过程。

    ————————————————–
    对于TOFFLER对中国文化本质特点的描述,我并不这么认为。

    相反,我认为中国的文化精髓并非在于激进,我们不热爱严苛和暴戾。

    中庸的精神才是中华文化的精髓。

    如何平衡天平两端,始终是我们所追求的东西。

    ———–

    中国交通问题的形成究其根源有着多种内外部因素的混合原因,我只想说,每一个中国人,管好你自己的手和脚,从学会出门,走路开始。

So, what do you think ?