Today, I felt like nothing was impossible and I could accomplish anything in life. I have had many such AHA moments while living abroad– running through the tangled woods of London’s Hampstead Heath, biking into Paris from a city 1 hour away with no directions, making it through SE Asia without having my shiz stolen– but none of these moments, NONE, compare to my feats in bizarre, confusing China! Today for example, I solely survived my bike ride home.
I have a blog soon to be published about the peculiar nature of China and the Chinese, but this entry is dedicated to the streets of China. When it comes to laws of the road, there are none. Every Chinese person thinks he or she owns it.
*Speed limits?–Well if they do exist nobody knows it.
*Driving in an orderly fashion?–Yeah right. There are several car lanes and a large (usually separated) bike lane on each side of the road. To a Westerner, it would be clear that the car lanes are for motorists (and bikes if necessary) and the bike lanes are solely for bicyclists and scooters. But a Chinese person sees all lanes as fair game and a driver is not afraid to zoom on through that bike lane if it’s free.
It gets better. Not only are they driving in the wrong lanes, but they are usually driving in the wrong direction as well. And this goes for the car lanes as well. Forget the broken yellow lines law– if Chinese drivers wants to pass, they will pass. Doesn’t matter if they are 2 meters away from an oncoming semi or about to hit a red light.
*Wait, red lights?– O yeah, those barely exist too. Put all of the above together and you’ve got yourself a Chinese driver driving in the wrong lane to pass all the cars stopped at the red light that he so nonchalantly and briskly flies through–never mind that it happened at the university’s intersection. True story.
***BUT– I do quite enjoy watching the scooters go by. Who knew that such a tiny two-seater could have the abilities of a pick up truck or a family vehicle. It’s not surprising to see someone cruisin’ on through with bamboo stalks the length of two trucks resting between the driver’s thighs. The best is when the scooter magically transforms from a two-seater into a four with daddy driving, mommy holding the baby in one arm and daddy’s shoulder with the other, and the husky prominently sitting on the 2x2ft of floor space between daddy’s feet.
So back to my AHA moment. My biggest irrational fear is to get hit by a car–so put a girl like me on streets like China and there’s a good chance of panic attack. After several freak out moments during the first few weeks of my arrival, I decided today was my day to conquer Chinese chaos! I hopped onto my cheap Chinese bike (that only took one week to break down) and started on my 20 minute straight shot journey home.
In the next 20 minutes I crossed over 4 lanes of oncoming traffic, dodged cars, scooters and bikes coming at me from every direction as I rode through a roundabout where yielding is rubbish, nearly had a head-on collision with a bike taxi, and broke my bike pedal. I did all of this while riding in the opposite bike lane and in the near dark 😉 And the best part– I made everyone stop for me! Yep, if I can survive that, I can survive ANYTHING!
And now I have been properly initiated into China. It feels good–strange, but good. My biggest concern is that I will return home with the Chinese mentality that I own the road and it will reflect in the amount of speeding tickets and accident dents. Let’s hope this is not the case.
Many of you may think my bike ride home was a pretty dangerous scenario, but in actuality, that’s just China.