Mark MacKinnon: A Police State Without Traffic Police

Mark MacKinnon of the Globe and Mail blogs about the life-threatening experience of riding in a Beijing taxi:

The only thing more dangerous than being in a Beijing taxi is daring to cross the street in front of one. After 10 months of living here, I’ve concluded that the rules of the Beijing road are roughly as follows:

– Trucks and buses are supreme, and can pretty much drive any where and any way they choose. Bus drivers may be public servants in other countries, but in Beijing they’re threats to public safety.

– Cars come next, with bigger cars clearly having the right to force themselves into any lane they choose, even if occupied by a smaller vehicle. This may be a Communist state in name, but there’s a rigid caste system when it comes to travelling on paved surfaces.

– Bicycles and those old-fashioned enough to still ride them are expected to scatter out of the way of anything with a motor.

– Pedestrians are the bottom of the ladder, and enjoy the exact opposite of the right of way. Even if you’re already in the intersection, and the walk signal is green, you’re expected to dive out of the way of any car that happens to turn right through the crosswalk. If pedestrians really needed to get where they are going, they’d be in a car, preferably a large one.

October 18, 2009 10:48 AM
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Categories: Law, Society