Driving in China !



Driving in China
Driving in China is quite something (understatement). Over the last 8000 km in China, we have seen it all. Traffic jams, traffic accidents, driving on the left, driving on the right, road works in the middle of large motorways, small mountain tracks, big leaning trucks, donkey carts, overloaded trailers pulled by camels. 



Most of our mileage has been done on so-called national roads. These are single or double lane roads that can stretch over very long distances (we followed national road 312 for nearly 2000 km). These will go through cities and countryside without any change or warning. They are the equivalent of European secondary roads (or French "Departementales"). The condition of the road can be anything from excellent (110 km/h possible) to dreadful (maximum 20 km/h). In Eastern China, we have also had a couple of "expressways". These newly built motorways are better than Western motorways because they are empty (except or a few motorway maintenance people walking in the middle of any lane without any previous warning). Here are a couple of pictures of what slows us down :



What kind of roads have we been on ?


Driving behaviour
The rule is : anything goes. We have flashed police cars, then overtaken them whilst blasting our horn and crossing a double yellow line before laughing our socks off thinking at what we had just done. We have overtaken on the left and on the right (following General Schwarzkopf words about fighting Iraqis, we could possibly also have overtaken vehicles from under and above).


One of our biggest worries remains to have a car accident and we have had to adapt to local driving conditions. Not to get mad at crazy and dangerous behaviour has been quite a challenge. We have had to forget all driving habits that we had and start anew. Moving vehicles are pretty much OK, although the difference in speed can be quite dangerous (Huynaudieres at Le Mans !). The biggest danger comes from vehicles that come onto the main road. These can be people (children in particular), bicycles, motorcycles, animal driven carts, you name it. Let's get straight to the point. The best description we have found for their behaviour is that of chicken : just go straight, don't look and hope for the best (this last one probably qualifies as a good example of anthropomorphism !). Or also epimetheus instead of prometheus ! Think after instead of thinking before or in this case look to see if anything is coming your way AFTER you're in the middle of the road instead of before. This kind of behaviour has meant both Kathleen and I have been seconds away of wiping out motorbike riders. Two seconds later and whack ! Things have been a lot better since we have left the populated provinces of the South and the East of China. Most roads in the Western Provinces of Gansu and Xinjiang have luckily been very quiet.


Mark and Michelle's description of driving in China (www.markandmichelle.com)
Mark and Michelle drove their car from Vladivostock to Istanbul (via the Caspian Sea instead of via India). Without permission, here is their interpretation of "The Rules of The Road in China" in 3 points :


"1) Please identify all vehicles/obstacles in the road at any one given time:

__ Pedestrians (walking, sitting in the road or otherwise)    

__ Bicycles, tricycles and other human powered transportation

__ Overloaded animal drawn carts (horse, donkey, cow, camel, etc)   

__ Tractors, big and small with overloaded trailers

__ Motorcycles, motor scooters, tricycles and other under powered vehicles

__ Road workers (working or sitting)         

__ Overloaded trucks or speeding empty trucks

__ Buses stopped to pick up passengers   

__ Broken down vehicles and/or accidents     

__ Goods waiting to be picked up

__ Oncoming traffic of any of the above 

__ Oncoming traffic of any of the above in your lane

If you have checked all of the above you are in China."


"2) Question: If there is a donkey cart on the shoulder and Bicycle A is going to pass it at the same time as Motorcycle B and Pedestrian C is crossing the street with 13 of her friends while oncoming vehicle D is passing overloaded tractor E but there are 5 car lengths between you and oncoming vehicle D, do you pass?

A.     No, it is unsafe

B.      Yes, but swerve to avoid the pedestrians and motorcycle

C.     Yes, but try to guess whether oncoming vehicle D will swerve before you do

D.     Yes, honking your horn the whole time and hoping for the best

E.      Any of the above, preferably in reverse order"

"3) Following up on Question 2, if an overloaded oncoming bus is passing an overloaded oncoming truck in your lane and there are bicycles, pedestrians, donkey carts and motorcycles in front of you and the overloaded truck, do you:

A.     Stand your ground regardless

B.      Swerve onto your shoulder and into the pedestrians, etc so that the bus does not cut off the truck which then runs into the pedestrians, etc on its side

C.     Honk your horn and flash your lights without slowing down

D.     Flip off the driver but slam on your brakes

If you selected A or C you have been in China too long, if you selected D you have a conscience and are an alien on the Chinese road system. If you selected B you would probably have more impact on the population in China than the one-child policy."

It's true !



But we are safe and well !


Guangzhou-Xi'an Back to Trip page Driving (part 2)