A little China traffic story

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Published: October 11th 2010

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Driving in China…or more specifically, Wuhan. What an experience!

Last Friday night we decided to go for a relaxing dinner out at Aloha restaurant, normally a half-hour jaunt away by taxi or scooter. We should have known better! Quiet? Relaxing? China? All three together are a super oxymoron.

We decided to ride the sidecar and take Janice along on the back seat. Sanya rode her scooter and the other four that tagged along took a taxi. It was a beautiful evening as we set out from Vanke around 5:30 and rode up the on-ramp onto the San Huan expressway, just around the corner from our apartment, for a quick, straight expressway run to Han Yang and the Aloha restaurant. Little did we know what was in store for us for the next hour and a half. Yes, an hour and a half.

We had traveled no more than 10 or 15 minutes before the traffic came to an almost dead halt. Of course, it never comes to a dead halt. It’s always just moving slow enough that we can’t stop and turn off the bike for a few minutes. We had to inch along in 1st gear for

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the next hour and a half. This brought back memories of another “inching along” moment for a couple of hours in South Dakota a few summers ago. At the end of that traffic jam my wrists had turned to mush and my arms were aching, but at least my new liquid cooled Kawasaki had no problem with the heat. This time we were on a 1938 designed, air-cooled Chinese Chang Jiang sidecar motorcycle. It doesn’t like not moving, especially when the air temperature is in the low 30s.

There is one accident situation in this country that causes 99% of the accidents we see. Somebody tries to cut in front of someone else to gain the forward position, usually from a right-hand lane to a left hand position. It is an unspoken rule here that whoever is ahead, wherever they are and by however much, can cut in front of you. However, the trailing driver does not always give in. And so the game of chicken begins. Well, on this trip, three games of chicken ended up in three accidents that backed up the traffic for miles.

And then we have the “it doesn’t matter how many lanes

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there are supposed to be, if ten cars can fit across 5 lanes, so be it” Chinese driving rule. This usually ends up in complete gridlock, especially when you are talking about several lanes merging to cross a bridge at the best of times.

Well, suffice it to say that we were wedged in a slowly moving traffic jam for a very long time. Along the way, the poor sidecar quit three times because of overheating. The three of us had to jump off and push it along in the middle of this god-awful traffic jam on three separate occasions. According to Sanya, we had it down pretty pat. Every time it quit, the three of us jumped off in sync and pushed it along with the traffic until I could restart it. Finally at the end of the bridge, I was able to pull over to the side and give it a good cooling-down period before continuing on for our final leg of the journey to the restaurant.

Along the way, several Chinese families were taking pictures of the crazy foreigners on the sidecar so Nancy started taking pictures of them taking pictures of us! We were

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totally wedged in by cars and semis for most of the trip which made for an exciting time for all!

Despite all our problems, we still got to the restaurant ahead of our friends in the taxi. Unbelievable! We all decided that there is no such thing here as going out without some type of incident. And that’s what makes living here so cool!



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