Friday, August 3, 2007

A Driving Epiphany

I just finished reading a book called "A Season in Red", by Australian Kristy Needham.

It chronicles her three months of working as a reporter for China Daily, the national English-language newspaper.

And in it are many observations similar to my own as well as some harrowing tales that I hope I may never encounter.

Towards the end of the non-fiction novel, she describes the driving habits of the Chinese:

"Foreigners tend to get upset with Chinese driving," continued our
travelling companion. He introduced himself as Luo Bin, a university
lecturer.

It was the understatement of the year. One of the most confronting
aspects of daily life in China was the complete disregard for rules,
or human mortality, on the roads. A nation of novice drivers had been
let loose en masse as car ownership suddenly came within reach of the
middle class.

The problem was, they had carried the attitudes and techniques that
worked for a rolling sea of bicycles into the fast lane with them. It
was a combination that was proving increasingly deadly as more and
more people got behind the wheel in the world's fastest growing car
market, which also boasted the world's highest traffic accident death
toll. (pg. 195)

And as soon as I read that, I realized she was bang on. No wonder drivers weave in and out of lanes, or straddle lanes if someone enters their lane. The bicycle-riding mentality has remained ingrained.

It all makes sense now...

2 comments:

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Larry said...

Oh yes, the cyclists. I was in Beijing in the late Fall of 1989. Early one morning, I started to cross the Avenue of Eternal Peace from the International Hotel when suddenly to my left, I heard a whirling sound which grew louder and louder. I looked for the source of the sound, and in the grey morning light, I saw a sea of cyclists. The whirling came from the bicycle wheels as the cyclists went to work.
They were in a dedicated lane and it looked orderly; no weaving but perhaps that would come later.