Crossing the road in Beijing may be the last thing you ever do.
Why? There’s a saying that you can tell how long a person has been living in Beijing by looking at how they cross a road with cars rushing on it:
- if the person waits for the first car to pass by, then the second car, then the third car and eventually end up staying at the road side for an hour, he/she has just arrived in Beijing.
- if the person observes and passes but still backs off when a car comes, he/she has been living in Beijing for a few months.
- if the person passes the road with little observation and ignore all the passing cars, you are dealing with a local or a person who has been living in Beijing for years.
One of the characteristics of the Chinese traffic is: vehicles never wait for people. This is the reason why foreigners (including me) may find a life and death situation when they are in the middle of the road. Zebra lines barely do their work at all, all they are good for in Beijing is to tell people: you can pass the road here. Note that they won’t tell you: you can pass the road safely here.
The busses, though carrying way more people than normal cars and vans, don’t seem to slow down at all. Zooming pass the red lights and never slowing down at the zebra lines, they are one of the terrors of the road with their enormous size and loud beeping horns. (I once saw a bus so overloaded that people were almost falling out of the windows)
Though the busses, cars and vans all know how to squeeze through floods of cars jamming up on the road, none of them is as skilled as the taxi. Taxi drivers are the most experienced of all the Beijing drivers, they can get to a destination way faster than normal cars could. Their small size is suitable for sliding through the gaps that are available in the road and they never wait for people to pass the road in front of them— they beep their horns and scare any souls that dare to stand in its way away.
The metros, faster even than the taxi (I wonder why), are the most crowded vehicles existing in Beijing. At the rush hour people are squeezed against each other like sardins in a can.
The traffic of Beijing is no joke, the pollution made by the increasing cars is one of the reasons why the smog exists. The amount of cars in Beijing is so great that a new rule has been established:
from April 11 to July 10, 2010, the tail plate No. of the no-driving motor vehicles from Monday through Friday shall be 1 and 6, 2 and 7, 3 and 8, 4 and 9, 5 and 0, respectively (including temporary plate numbers; provided the plate number of any motor vehicle ends with an English alphabet, such an alphabet shall be treated as 0, similarly hereinafter);
(ii) from July 11 to October 9, 2009, the tail plate No. of the no-driving motor vehicles from Monday through Friday shall be 5 and 0, 1 and 6, 2 and 7, 3 and 8, 4 and 9, respectively;
(iii) from October 10, 2009 to January 8, 2010, the tail plate No. of the no-driving motor vehicles from Monday through Friday shall be 4 and 9, 5 and 0, 1 and 6, 2 and 7, 3 and 8, respectively;
(iv) from January 9 to April 10, 2010, the tail plate No. of the no-driving motor vehicles from Monday through Friday shall be 3 and 8, 4 and 9, 5 and 0, 1 and 6, 2 and 7, respectively.
The public transporting system is also designed so that more people would stand, not sit. The reason is simple: while standing, people take up less space than while sitting, therefore more space=more people=more money.
on my way to the Tian’anmen square