Just a few random, end-of-week thoughts as I pack up and prepare to move to my third (and final) Shanghai residence, the Four Seasons Pudong. At least I’m moving up!
In keeping with my previous transportation-themed posts today’s rambling is all about the Right of Way:
In the U.S., right-of-way is granted by a handful of traffic laws, basic courtesy and common sense. For instance, I know that if I pull up to a 4-way stop at the same time as another vehicle, the car on the right has the right-of-way. Those going straight through an intersection have the right-of-way over those turning left. Easy-Peasy. Sure there are the occasional assholes who feel that their right of way supersedes all others – or those who are completely clueless (do you hear me Long Beach? Figure out a f-ing four-way stop – it’s not difficult). But for the most part it all works.
Not in Shanghai.
In Shanghai the only rule is there are no rules. A VERY busy six-way intersection with meticulously timed lights and separate car lanes, moped lanes and pedestrian lanes (all with their own signals) is a Mad Max apocalyptic free-for-all. DO NOT be the poor fool who doesn’t create his own lane (between two oncoming lanes of traffic) if there are drivers behind you. They will honk until your ears bleed and then go around you – creating another lane.
I have NEVER seen a moped stop. Ever. Mopeds, motorized bikes and standard bikes will plow through a crosswalk into crossing traffic and weave their way between speeding vehicles. They will turn left crossing six lanes of oncoming traffic without slowing. I have seen a moped on the WRONG SIDE OF THE STREET heading directly into traffic and splitting the lanes until they turned onto a cross street. It is insanity.
Come to a complete stop before turning right? Fuhgetaboutit. If you are in the crosswalk when someone comes barreling through that turn – you had best get the fuck out of the way. It’s YOUR responsibility NOT to get run over, not the other way around.
Another odd phenomenon in Shanghai – A bus can AND will fit anywhere. Anywhere. If there is a 3-inch gap between two vehicles – perfect fit for a bus. If a bus needs to turn left and all of the left turn lanes are full – they will pull into the intersection and create their own turn lane. Need to fit a bus in your hall closet. No problem. I swear it’s like the Knight Bus in the Harry Potter series. Spaces that a person wouldn’t fit are fair game for a bus. My favorite way to pass the long ride home is to watch the cars try to cut off our bus that is merging into their lane. Oh sweetie – nice try. It’s a bus, just give it up.
So buses and mopeds go anywhere, and cars are a distant follower in the right-of-way game. Where do pedestrians fall in the traffic circle of life? Somewhere behind bikes, push carts, wheelbarrows, rolling luggage, skateboards, razor scooters and strollers. Basically if it has at least one wheel it outranks you. I really do not exaggerate when I say crossing the street can be a life or death proposition. Even walking on the sidewalk doesn’t give you any safety. I have been almost hit by motorcycles, mopeds, bikes AND EVEN CARS driving on the sidewalk. The safest place to be is sitting on your couch.
Another fun fact I learned last night while going to a restaurant for dinner – taxi drivers will tell you “no” and kick you out of the cab. They will refuse to take you to your destination if it is out of their way, too far, they have a hangnail or they just feel like it. Mind you, they stopped for you and let you IN the taxi – but that is no guarantee you get to stay, Last night was another super rainy night and we decided the subway would be too much of a slog through the rain. We hailed a cab, showed him the directions (to the Bund – a VERY popular place) he drove about a block, pulled over and said “no.” I don’t know if it was because we weren’t quite sure what was going on and didn’t immediately exit the cab that he just gave up and took us. But kept pulling over along the way. We tried to reason and asked him to drop us off at the metro station or even provided a closer address. But again, he speaks Chinese, we don’t, he could have just been regaling us with stories of his favorite Christmas holiday. At one point he did make a phone call – we are convinced it was to tell his friends all about the asshole Americans who wouldn’t get out of his car when he told us to. Needless to say we took Uber home.
Oh – one more – thankfully this hasn’t happened (and I hope it doesn’t). What do you do if you are in a taxi that is involved in an accident? You immediately throw money in the front seat, exit the taxi and leave the area. IMMEDIATELY. It does not matter if the other driver was at fault and hit you. You are the one with the money so you are the one at fault.
Alright – I need to pack and get ready to move. Here are a few photos of the apartment I’m leaving and surroundings in Jin Qiao. Until next time.