Driving in Beijing

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Is that what they call it here?

Ok, it must be about time for me to leave Beijing. I’m officially over the driving.

In Australia, we have to pass a driving test before we can get behind the wheel of a car. That doesn’t seem to be the case in China. And if people do need to pass a test here, it’s surely for road rules devised, written and implemented for another planet in a polar opposite universe.

This is of particular worry when you have small children to ferry around town.

For all the myriad things China does so well, driving a vehicle is not one of them. It’s not even about driving chaotically or irresponsibly. It’s that there actually appears to be no road rule structure in place. If the rumours are true – if the sole road rule for drivers in Beijing is to be responsible for nothing more than whatever appears in their front windscreen, then that explains everything.

To explore the complex reasoning behind the actions of a Beijing driver, let’s step in the driver’s seat with one now:

  • Get into your car, preferably in the middle of a lane of traffic, in the fast lane of the freeway, on the shoulder of a busy corner or in a parking space that takes up three places or juts out four metres into the roadway.
  • Start the engine whilst texting on your mobile phone. Put the phone to your ear and start yelling. Do not remove it from your ear for an hour.
  • Look into the front windscreen so you can see where the road is, and pull out onto the road. Do not turn your head nor look to the side. Do not avoid pedestrians, bicycles or animals (you have right of way at all times) and most especially, do not wait your turn if another car is already on that road. Just pull out whenever you are ready to go.
  • Do not turn your head left or right once during your entire journey.
  • Never even think about looking into the review mirror. Ever. Yes, it's a mirror!
  • When you want to enter a road, just pull out. Don’t wait your turn – just pull out into the traffic. Don’t worry, the cars going 100kph along the road will screech to a stop when they see you pull out, and narrowly escape ploughing their vehicle smack bang up your rear end.
  • Whatever you do, NEVER let anyone in front of you at an intersection and be sure to block all intersections to prevent anyone else driving into sidestreets. Gridlock, here we come.
  • If you are on the freeway, drive slowly in the centre lane and then, just as you’re about to miss your exit, either soar across four lanes or inch your way across until you can reach your ramp. Don’t worry about the mass car pile up and highly probably death scene you are about to cause. They will just swerve around you.
  • At a roundabout, be sure to go to the complete opposite lane from which you wish to exit the roundabout. Block six lanes of traffic whilst you edge your way across.
  • On straight roads, drive along straddling two lanes at all times. Hedging your bets is ideal.
  • Do not depress your foot onto the brake until you are centimetres from a collision. Or depress it on and off constantly as you drive along.
  • Don’t change gears unless the car is about to croak it because you’re travelling 15kph in fifth and the vehicle is shaking and loping like a squashed bug.
  • If you need to pull out into traffic from the side of the road, wait until oncoming cars are less than a metre from your rear bumper, then pull out. Whatever you do, do NOT wait until they pass. Wait until they need to slam on their brakes and come to a screeching halt. The driver of the other vehicle will smash their brains out on the windscreen in front of them, but why should that worry you?
  • Toot your horn constantly––not from aggravation, but rather to say “Look out! Here I come! Look at me – I’m driving!”

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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