Right of Way
A person walking along a road or in a developed area.
As you traverse across the hectic and bustling city dodging nánrén in their black fitted suits on the way to work, with children in their track suits racing to school on Mobikes, you make your way to a crosswalk of a major intersection. You wait patiently with your fellow pedestrians until the counter slowly makes its way down to zero, permitting you to dash across in one piece to the other side. As the light flickers its LED green, you begin to step forward when all of the sudden a black Mercedes Benz rears its metallic frame inches away from your foot would have been. Quietly cursing at the uncharitable driver, you look up to see others plowing on through, making no notice of the illegal traffic violation that just occurred.
You might have heard that the drivers in China are especially audacious when it comes to navigating the streets of Zhōngguó, its true, but that’ll take more than a single post to discuss. As for being a pedestrian, you should have all of your senses operating at full capacity at all times, even on the sidewalks. Transportation in China is much like Darwin’s envision of the Wild, with animal’s ability to survive being determined based on physical attributes. In this analogy, whichever is bigger and moving faster will always receive preferential treatment. Much unlike in the western world, where pedestrians are almost always seen as having the right-of-way in every situation. A sort of reverse natural selection, where the weak, fragile, and slow moving is provided for. And that makes sense for us, right? Well, here that assumption will land you in the hospital.
China is not an underdeveloped country like many (Měiguórén) are lead to believe. The transportation in Tier 1 cities (Shànghǎi, Běijīng, Guǎngzhōu, and Shēnzhèn) are quite sophisticated, rivaling what you might see in major cities of the US. However, the traffic laws and how they are enforced differ in a big way. For one, people ride electric and gas powered scooters on… everything. There’s no limit to where a scooter can be ridden; this makes walking a dangerous activity. Bikes are also used frequently, what with the newly emerged bike sharing company Mobike. If that’s not enough to make you want to walk around in a coat of protective armor, it’s not unusual to see cars hop curbs or even impede traffic by attempting to a make fifteen-point turn in a one lane street to avoid having to drive around the block. It’s much different to say the least.
But hey, this country is growing astonishingly quick while also introducing more familiar, kind-of western structure to their systems, making additions and safety precautions almost overnight. The metro for example, is a sophisticated and clean method of getting around big cities for (fēicháng) affordable prices. The government has also constructed a network of bullet trains with the ability to move citizens all around the country in comfort and at amazing speeds. China is working hard at surpassing its western rivals in all avenues of life and so far they are making ginormous strides in the right direction.
Still, remember though, when you see that little green man light up when using a crosswalk, it doesn’t really mean you have the right-of-way. Only after you leave an adult-sized dent in the hood of their car, means it was your turn.