Sunday, November 15, 2009

Traffic Pragmatism

The Chinese have a very pragmatic approach to traffic rules and signals, that is, if you define pragmatism as I am going to get to work as fast as I can without causing any accidents, hopefully.  I see no problem with going through a red light if you know that it is safe to do so.  I see no problem with sneaking through traffic barriers, making u-turns, and the occasional short wrong way maneuver.  But pragmatic doesn't mean suicidal and it seems to me that the Chinese are taking crazy risks.

I list a few examples of this suicidal behavior:

  • Oncoming traffic has a left turn signal.  Cyclists will go straight and skirt these fast-moving turning trucks and buses.  And they will do this in rush hour!
  • Drivers will make left turns from the the right lane.
  • Pedestrians will run in front of buses, counting on the fact that the buses will slow down.
  • Cyclists will drive the wrong way down Freeways.
  • Drivers will not stop at uncontrolled intersections.
  • Drivers will cut off each other within inches to get ahead.
  • I have seen pedestrians walk and forget to look at the pedestrian traffic signal.
  • et cetera....

That is the way I thought, but then I heard stories about the horsemen of the steppes.  I was listening to a podcast recently from a series called Hardcore History (look for it on i-tunes) and it told stories of the incredible feats of these horsemen -- they could do things on a horse beyond all boundaries of safety and prudence that a Westerner like me has.  Could you imagine being able to hang onto the neck of a horse and shoot arrows accurately at 200m?  I couldn't.  And yet these horsemen were able to do it.

Thinking of these ancient feats, I realize I should give the drivers and cyclists of China a break.  They are on another planet that the limitations of my imagination would never have taken me if I hadn't listened to that podcast.  I continue to talk of the things the Chinese do in traffic  -- but I will see them as incredible feats.



1 comment:

Kraxpelax said...

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I went downtown, saw Katie in the nude
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