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Letting the World Change You

The Road Less Traveled

CHINA | Wednesday, 12 October 2011 | Views [660]

In America, you never think "boy, I'm glad they have laws against driving on the sidewalk."  For most of us, it would never occur to us to drive on a sidewalk, down a median, through a walking path, or any other such surface.  In fact, I often told myself in America that we had way too many traffic laws and most of them were unneeded or ridiculous.

Wrong!

China really is a sort of haven for hedonists.  If it benefits you, you do it.  There isn't much more of a moral code here, generally speaking, than that.  That hedonism extends to the automobile, as well.  If the surface is flat and wide enough to fit a car, the Chinese will drive on it, and it is considered perfectly normal.  It's not uncommon to be out window-shopping and have to suddenly scoot out of the way so that a speeding motorcycle doesn't knock you down.  And most cities aren't designed with auto traffic in mind, so there are no parking lots, and therefore people park on the sidewalks.

Also, Chinese view pedestrians quite differently than Americans do.  In America, the pedestrian always has the right of way, and woe be unto the driver who would hit one, or even threaten one, really.  In China, it's the right of might--a car would do more damage to a pedestrian than vice versa, so the pedestrian should move out of the way of the car.  The same rules apply when it's compact car versus big truck.  

Our city has walking streets that were constantly being invaded by cars, because, as I said, it's flat, so I can drive on it, right?  They literally had to put up barriers which were less than 2 feet apart so that cars and motorcycles couldn't squeeze by.

Our school's campus has a walking area for students and teachers that is supposed to be foot traffic only.  There are little barricades, but drivers often get out and move them.  The path's traffic is usually very congested, and it's a dangerous place for cars to be, but many are the times my pregnant wife and I have had to get out of the way of cars and motorcycles.  We all pretty much knew it was a matter of time before somebody got hit.

As it turns out, it was my time today.  I didn't get hit too seriously.  The car clipped my arm with its rear-view mirror.  I have a welt on my left arm, and it's a bit tender to the touch.  This was in the pedestrian-only area, and the driver got out to see what had happened.  He is very fortunate that my student, Lily, was there.  She put herself between me and him to keep anything from happening.  A policeman was standing there, with his thumb up his butt and a goofy grin, so not much happened there.  It all ended with the dean of my department rushing to my home to see if I needed medical attention, and that came with some weak promises to get the security bureau to barricade the pedestrian path.  Yeah...that's gonna happen.

So anyway, those of you who might read this in America:  be thankful for the laws you have, at least some of them.  While they might seem ridiculous, you just might be surprised which ones come in handy, and you might be amazed at which ones have saved your life at some point.

Tags: accident, china, law, traffic

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