Crossing the road, riding in taxis, and getting out of the subway terminal
04.09.2012 27 °C
Walking on the street in Beijing is like the show "I shouldn't be alive. " Day 6... I nearly got crushed but a mega bus with 78 people on it going 60 mph on Jianguo rd!"
A colleague of mine put it this way, make yourself a bobble head. Seriously never stop looking both ways. Cars, bikes mopeds and electric scooters and anything else you can fit on a road will try to run you over. People do not have the right of way here. Its our job to watch out for the vehicles. Its crazy when you think there are over 5 million cars on the streets of Beijing. Outside the city and in the touristy spots its not so bad. But main intersections at rush hour can be like playing frogger on steroids
This morning, I watched herds of people cross the street to avoid crossing at the intersection. They were walking against traffic and next to the divider on a busy street. Im surprised there aren't more traffic deaths here. This place is lawless when it comes to traffic rules. Anything goes. If the person in front of you is making a turn, just go head on into traffic and go around them. In some areas you'll see a barrier, almost like a white fence, separating the lanes to prevent drivers from doing this.
Its an intense sight to see. Its even more exhilarating when someone pulls out of a street full speed and you have to stomp your foot on the imaginary break in the taxi. But to Chinese drivers its really not that big of a deal. The horn is used like a musical instrument here. Apparently no one finds it annoying.
When its time to catch a taxi you have to be aggressive. I dont mean push a someone out of the way. Never do that. I always try to remember I am in their country and I will always be wrong on these issues. Aggressive more like a car jacking. Taxis have lights on their cabs much like they do in New York to signal if they are available. But you see dozens of cabs just driving around with no light on and no one in their car! I still don't know what to yell, so I wave my hand frantically until they pull over. In the few weeks Ive been, Ive taken nearly 30 cabs. Sometimes you just have to jump in one when they slow down. They haven't tried to drive away from me yet. They usually slow down cause they know I caught them. Im not suggesting to do this, im just saying its an option and it works. Apparently after writing this I discovered that the taxis will switch shifts with other drivers so they stop picking up people. Usually they are on their way back to a meeting point to switch. Here taxis purchase their vehicle for the full 24 hours and in order to optimize the amount of money they make, they share it with someone else.
Make sure you have a map when you tell the cab where you want to go. None of them speak English and they all take different routes. Some of them usually don't know where they are going because they aren't from Beijing. They just came here to make a little money running a taxi with their brother or something along those lines. They charge a minimum of 10 rmb plus a 2 rmb surcharge. Then it goes up about 2 rmb every couple km. Very convenient and very cheap usually about 3-4 bux. ALWAYS HAVE A MAP! :-)
Its especially hard to hail a cab during rush hour. Best bet is to take a cab to the nearest train station and go from there. The subway system is very efficient. Recent renovations and extensions due to the 2008 Olympics have made it a much nicer and far more advanced system than the New York lines Im used to. Most of the stations have glass barriers and doors that align with the cart entrance. Line 1, the red line, doesn't and that's the busiest line that runs right through Tienanmen Square. They are very clean and very safe. Each entrance you'll have to run your bag through a scanner. I did see someone sleeping at the scanner the other day. To give her the benefit of the doubt it was late and a very boring job. Be prepared to pack in. If you see a seat, sit in it as soon as possible. There are hardly ever any open seats on the main lines, so be ready to stand for a while.
Also, youl'l save a little money if you purchase a metro pass. They are about 20rmb and each ride, no matter what distance, will cost you 2 rmb. Keep this card handy because you'll need to swipe it again in order to exit. You should have seen me trying to figure out how to exit. I bought a one way, which your supposed to dispose of in order to exit. I was swiping it like everyone else and I caused a huge pile up. Thankfully a security card ran over to me and showed me where to insert the card. Much to my relief, I wasn't the only westerner I saw have this problem in the coming weeks.
There isn't much need for a car in Beijing. Unless you plan on hauling around your furniture or traveling outside of town, the transportation here is extremely convenient. Most Chinese don't own their own vehicle, but that is rapidly changing. The Chinese are growing, getting richer and want more goods. They want bigger cars and more of them. Beijing has had a record number of applications for a vehicle registration this in recent months They are only administering 20,000 new vehicle registrations this month, but have one milion applicants. That means, supposedly, you should only see 20,000 more vehicles on the road next month. You can read more about it in this link.
zhu ni hao yun! (good luck)