Saturday, October 11, 2008


I've been getting increasingly fascinated by the phenomenon of cars here in Beijing. There's that well reported statistic that something like 1,000 new cars are being added to Beijing's roads every day. (I think I have that right...)

This, in combination with the ridiculous size of the city, makes for some really interesting logistical experiences. Like Friday night, when we hired a driver (first time doing that on our own...a fun negotiation!) to bring us home from Yabao Lu, where we were eating our favorite Uighur food. An hour and a half later (plus me smoking another cigarette while bonding with the shifu, plus a number of "how did he thread that needle?" moments), we were back at Yan Bei Yuan, safe and sound (maybe a few minutes taken off our lives...).

Then there is the issue of how the government is responding to all of this traffic, pollution, and other car-induced problems. There was the well documented "even-odd" license plate restriction that the city imposed during the Olympic period. This apparently worked so well in making the skies a little bluer and the traffic a little lighter that a reprise is on the way. Beginning this week, and lasting for six months, this is what will happen...on Mondays, cars with license plates ending in 1 and 6 will not be allowed on the roads. On Tuesdays, it's 2s and 7s, Wednesdays 3s and 8s, and so on. (I'm betting that there's not much reporting of this in the West, now that the Games are long gone...) This plan is supposed to speed the average trip by something like 8-9 percent. We'll see...the kids' bus ride is usually our best gauge of things like this.

Then there are problems that occur, shall we say, more "on the ground." These are issues that are not dealt with by government officials, but by everyday people. For example, where do you park your car when you are going to this little shop or market that was built with pedestrian, not car, traffic in mind? Answer...I don't think we've seen a sidewalk without parked cars on it since we've arrived! Actually, I don't think we've walked on a sidewalk since we've arrived...that's what streets are for!

This influx of cars into a society designed for foot and bicycle traffic has led to the construction of all kinds of barriers. Barriers that prevent cars from driving into parks, barriers that prevent cars from going the opposite way down a street...basically barriers to stop drivers from going places that they definitely would go if they weren't physically prevented.

And where to park all of these vehicles? No assigned parking spaces in our apartment complex, that's for sure! It's pretty much a free for all, like the rest of the car experience here in Beijing. Pretty much the only thing that puts a halt to this "state of nature?"...more barriers! In fact, that's what I think these little devices in the picture are for...I'm thinking about bringing a couple of them home to stop people from parking in front of our house while we're out. (If we remember how to drive, that is...)



At 8:01 PM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

Well, the first day of the new license plate restrictions was definitely NOT faster for Julie and Z. First of all, the van was something like half an hour late. Then, when it finally arrived, it was a different van than they have being using. I think it had something to do with the license plate rule; maybe it is banned from the road on Mondays. In any event, this new van had a new driver. This new driver did not really know where to go. So the upshot was that the kids arrived at school right as first period was ENDING. Just another crazy day on the roads of Beijing...



Post a Comment

<< Home