China is clearly a country in transition...or at least parts of it. Transportation is an interesting study.
A friend of ours visited China in 2000. At that time, there were hoards of bicycles, and buses and cars were spewing black smoke. Now, the streets are clogged with scooters, especially in Zhengzhou. Many of them are electric, which means they can silently creep up on you when they decide the ply the sidewalk instead of the street! Beijing and Shanghai both have efficient, easy to use subways with English subtitles. Find a machine, choose your destination, insert your RMBs and get your token. The fast train ran every 20 minutes during the day from Beijing to Zhengzhou for the equivalence of $50, and the trains we took were always full. So, some advances in reducing carbon emissions have been made in the way of transportation. But outside of town, steer clear of the trucks that still spew out black death. Eeeuww. (Can I add in here that everything in northern China was covered with a dusting of black grit, evidence of the coal-fueled pollution that had plagued China until just a few weeks before we arrived. Lucky us!!)
|Our Cheesehead in China, getting ready to board a fast train|
Tom's favorite part was the craziness of traffic. When lights change, chaos erupts, with cars and scooters and three-wheeled vehicles zigzagging between each other and making their own lanes. Oh, and these 3-wheeled guys could sometimes be found going the wrong way down a one way street. No problem, I guess?! They don't honk at that, but they do toot the horn on highways and roads when they pass. With the craziness, it is amazing there there are rarely any accidents. We saw two fender benders, and Jackie said that is more than she has seen in 7 months. I can only guess it is because of the horn-taps with passing, my observation that people don't really speed in China, that they are in general more laid-back drivers (no road rage?), and they simply must be more vigilant because they know it is crazy and they perhaps don't assume (like we do?!) that cars will be in their expected lanes.
Another part of the craziness, and lack of rules and regs, is that several people were often piled on the scooters, including babies tucked in front. Go ahead and talk on your cell phone while transporting precious cargo. Ahem, I guess that is kinda like us?!
|Bicycles were rigged to meet the elements. This one had an umbrella. In ZZ, it was still "colder," so the scooters had mitts and lap pads. Ingenious.|
So, back to vehicles. The other thing to be found in plenty, and different from us, are these electric-motored, three-wheeled vehicles. In Beijing, We stayed in a hutong, a narrow, ancient alley street, so the garbage collectors were small, electric three-wheeled dudes with a large bucket in back that could easily squeeze into the narrow spaces. This type of vehicle took many forms and purposes, including street vendors. Pile the back up with fruit or veggies, and you got a market-to-go.
|Police 3-wheeler and some other cute little car....|
|Chinese 7-11. The little oranges had thin skins, so you ate em whole.|
|Wooden plow. Bags in back contained cow manure for fertilization. This is a small rice paddy.|