Epic Traffic

You can’t talk about China without talking about the traffic. We’ve
only been in Beijing for a few days and already we’ve been in multiple
traffic jams of epic proportions, where nobody moves for an hour and
everybody is just honking. Yesterday we were stuck on a bus for forty
minutes at a single intersection, we moved no more than a hundred
feet. And it’s not like we could have gotten off and walked, we were
miles from our destination because everything in this city is so
spread out.

Our acupuncturist friends have dubbed situations like this as “CCF”
(China Cluster Fuck), and there’s really no other way to describe it.
Wayne’s already written about how terrible and crazy the drivers are
here, and it’s been true everywhere we went. But the problems in
Beijing are magnified because of the sheer number of vehicles on the
road (apparently the statistic is that 1,000 new cars hit the road
EVERY DAY in this city) and the fact that no one follows any traffic
rules. For instance, we’re not really sure what the cause was of the
traffic jam we were stuck in yesterday. But a bunch of drivers got
impatient because traffic wasn’t moving, so they pulled into the lanes
of oncoming traffic. Which of course blocked everything up even worse
for far longer. A couple of drivers even drove up onto the sidewalk
and started honking at the pedestrians to get out of the way!

It’s not like you can avoid the traffic on the subway either. There
are just so many people crammed into the cars that you can barely
breathe or even get off at your stop. Even with all the new subway
lines, it doesn’t seem to fulfill people’s need for getting around the
city. Most expats that we’ve talked to swear by their bicycles, and
that the only way to get anywhere remotely on time is to ride.

Unfortunately it seems like people here feel like they “need” cars,
and it’s understandable given the distances between things and the
uncomfortable ride on public transport. But unleashing huge numbers of
new (bad) drivers onto the road with no apparent plans for traffic
calming just seems like the craziest, ass-backwards thing to do. I
feel like there had been an opportunity to do something totally
innovative with urban planning and transportation given that ten years
ago the city was mostly filled with bicycles and that there weren’t
any legacy systems that had to be dealt with. But instead it seems
like it’s a headlong rush into crappy car culture that’s just going to
get worse and worse. It makes me appreciate New York so much more –
and the next time there’s a twenty minute delay on the subway, I am
going to thank my lucky stars that I’m not stuck on a bus in a two
hour traffic jam in Beijing.

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4 thoughts on “Epic Traffic

  1. Anonymous says:

    you two should go to shanghai! world expo 2010 happening there right now. it’s a one-in-multiple-generations event and how i wish i could visit shanghai this year.

  2. Wayne Surber says:

    We actually were in Shanghai. I believe I wrote a post about that. We <br/>left just after the Expo opened. I think our version of Shanghai, just <br/>experiencing what we did and the building up to the Expo was enough. <br/>Thanks for reading! <br/>-wayne

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’d be scared to ride my bike in Beijing. I feel like the likelihood of getting hit by a car is much higher there than anywhere else. But yes, CCF is pretty much the way to describe it. I thought the traffic was so crazy that it makes it impossible to cross the street. And everyone thinks being in Shibuya in Tokyo is crazy, right?!

  4. Julie Lee says:

    I guess it is good that makes you appreciated New York traffic and its drivers. I always thought that New York drivers are not as bad as everyone thought about them. There are far more worse traffic and bad drivers around the world.

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