Monday 2 June 2014

Driving in China

Driving in China is fun. Mostly the traffic moves at an appropriate speed for the conditions, drivers are practically considerate, and it works. Motorways are great and well sign-posted in English, although ALL traffic is fascinated with the vintage cars. Ninety nine percent of cars will slow down for photos, ignoring other traffic, usually blaring trucks or buses behind them. All drivers and passengers return our waves and most give the thumbs up to the cars.

We have only seen the results of three accidents so far, two quite minor, and the other a mug driver in a new Prado on a windy mountain road who had previously stopped and swaggered around to take a few pics of the vintage cars. We saw him halfway down the mountain upside down across the safety barrier.

In cities, when your light goes green you go ahead, but watch out because it doesn’t mean everyone else stops. At home you may be used to watching the front, and the lanes beside you, and whether you have a truck up your rear. However here you must also watch for the car making a U-turn in front of you, coming in from a side street, turning left from the right lane or vice versa, turning right against the lights (it’s legal), or just driving diagonally across your lanes in the wrong direction because it’s the shortest way to where they’re going. Roundabouts sometimes involve a short cut against the traffic, but they still work. Scooters, motorbikes, bicycles, tuk-tuks and trishaws will use the “slow lane” to go in the opposite direction to the traffic. There are also some who just come at you in the wrong lane because another car has impeded their progress in their own lane. These will usually be BMW X5s or Porsche Cayennes (well Chinese children have to get to school somehow).

Pedestrian crossings seem to be areas to herd pedestrians into more convenient killing grounds. Cars don’t stop at them. Pedestrians do. I played traffic policeman at one crossing, holding up a would-be zebra-runner, wagging my finger at him. He stopped and laughed. Universally cheerful people, and no sign of road-rage anywhere. Yet.

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