Having lived in the USA for my entire life I have come to take certain traffic ordinances for granted; yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, yield on left turn, don’t drive your motorized scooter on the sidewalk… none of which are enforced here in Shanghai. Here, the two overriding traffic rules that most people seem to follow are:
1- the shortest distance between two points is a straight line even if that means going against traffic, driving on the sidewalk, running a red light, turning right from the left lane, or left from the right lane… (That’s more than one rule, right? China.Rules don’t matter)
2-Size matters; In keeping with China’s hierarchical culture, right-of-way seems to be entirely dependent upon the size of the vehicle. Buses routinely speed, run red lights, turn across multiple lanes of traffic and never yield. Ever. Large, luxury SUVs, Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes change lanes at will, without looking and never signalling, do not slow down to turn tight on red and refuse to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Electric scooters disregard all traffic rules, driving on the wrong side of the road or riding on the sidewalk. Pedestrians beware! Bicyclists are next on the ladder and people walking occupy the lowest rung on the food chain even if they have a walk signal, or are on the sidewalk.
After 6 months in China I have developed the survival skills to walk the streets and ride my bike, but with a little American (New York) attitude, often crossing the street, locking eyes with an oncoming driver and walking right in front of them (except buses, I’m not stupid).
“If you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball.”—Patches O’Houlihan