Here in Xu Zhou, a large city in Jiangsu province about four hours south of Shanghai, everyday I am reminded that ‘The Car is King’ with a larger than life capital K.
I seriously wonder, on a very frequent basis; are cars here even fitted with brakes and do drivers know where they are and how to use them? Maybe they think the brake pedal is a convenient footrest or there for decoration?
After a lifetime of crossing the road only looking in one direction back in the UK, it’s not easy to automatically look the other way for oncoming traffic. Look left, look right several times whilst trying to avoid oncoming traffic, whilst being deafened by horns. It’s enough to drive you insane, really.
Added to this perilous experience is the complete lack of sympathy, empathy and all other kinds of ‘pathy’ (except psychopath-y) that drivers here have for pedestrians.
They just don’t care about us (even though they must also be pedestrians when they’re not driving?) and will beep relentlessly at pregnant ladies, babies, old people, me and everyone who knows me, until we all get out of their way, preferably by teleporting because walking is obviously too slow.
Recently I saw an older lady riding her bicycle with a taxi bearing down on her. The driver was inches away from her back wheel and was beeping at her like it was an Olympic sport.
The poor lady, with a look of absolute horror, pedalled like her life depended on it, cheeks all puffed out, legs going ten to the dozen, her whole life probably flashing before her eyes. I was convinced she was either going to take off or have a heart attack!
Would it really have hurt the driver to back off a little, or even a lot?
Nowhere to Run
Here, in the centre of the city where I live and work, cars drive and park on the road and ON the pavement.
E bikes (no petrol, no emissions, just charge up and go – great idea) spend most of their time on the pavement too.
Imagine looking up from idle daydreaming to see a horde of E bikes raining down while walking in the area reserved for those of us on two legs, you know, the pavement! Sometimes there’s no-where left to walk but in the road.
All of the major intersections have huge zebra crossings but they don’t mean a thing, unlike in the UK. Cars will keep coming at you, often not even slowing down, their drivers ignoring the plea for mercy in your eyes.
I’ve devised a pretty good, totally un-scientific formula to get from one side of the road to the other. It’s not patented and its effectiveness is yet to be fully approved but feel free to apply it’s untested and undocumented methods whenever necessary.
You’ll need; swift mental calculation, the ability to sprint like Usain Bolt, ear plugs, faith and a little bit of luck. The next stage is to first put one foot then the other onto the road and repeat this foot action until you reach the other side hopefully with all of your bits intact, although you will feel frazzled. This is a given. Oh, it might also help it you shoot up a quick prayer.
Well, I never said it was perfect.