Beijing means not just wonderful sightseeings and beautiful architecture... means also traffic.
Depending on the hour, you can find yourself stuck into a traffic jam without comparison with western ones...
But most of the time there is heavy traffic but it at least flows...
While my previous tip was a warning that was easily avoided this one is more serious with consequences for your well being.
As you read in my intro I refer to the maelstrom of motorists' madness & also city of few accidents by only a couple of coats of paint. While I said these things half jokingly they do have a very serious element to them.
My observations made me be very careful crossing the road because Beijing motorists don't obey traffic signals etc like the vast majority of Australians, Americans & Europeans. When you are walking & need to cross the road I strongly suggest you only do it while mixed in the company of a group of locals & still keep your wits about you.
I only had one close call where the couple of coats of paint were nearly my skin!!!!!!
Beijing traffic is pretty heavy most of the time. I still marvel at the way people seemed to negotiate it & I refer here to both motorists & also pedestrians. Of course being a pedestrian you don't have the protection of a metal barrier that the drivers have so once again I warn you to please take care while crossing the road. REMEMBER...... Just because the light says you may walk doesn't mean for a second that the cars won't come through. THEY WILL! You don't won't your stay ruined/complicated by being hit by a car so please be careful.
In overall, Beijing is a very safe city. The only real danger we spotted was traffic. No, luckily we didn't see or get into accidents, but it looks like the only rule is that there are no rules.
In the intersections, the pedestrians move inches near bikers, rickshaws and cars. Apparently, the Chinese developed some kind of kungfu dexterity, because they seem to be very calm about it.
Examine closely the attached picture. It's taken on the bridge near the Hongqiao market. The cars don't form a straight line. Here and there you see people and bikes.
However, there are visible efforts to keep the situation under control. Since the traffic lights are mostly used as decoration, there are policemen on the liveliest spots. They are obeyed.
Whenever possible, use bridges or underground crossings.
Watch it on green light, cars may very well still run over you. If there is no policeman in sight they will drive on red light with the great confidence that you are more unsure of your life than the driver is for his car. Taxis especially are notorious. Cars can legally turn right on red light, pedestrians in the zebra crossing or not. As a pedestrian you have few rights in Beijing
This has happened to me sometimes while I am in taxi, the driver answered his mobile call while he is driving on road ignoring that this is a violation to the traffic rules and it may be very dangerous .......
In case this happens to u, I would suggest u to stop the driver, show him stop talking!!
Be aware that the traffic jam can make you loose a lot of time.
If you have decided to take a taxi to for example the Beijing Opera, then try to make a good timetable, so that you will not miss it because of all the traffic...
Pedestrians are lowest on the food chain on the streets of Beijing. You must watch out for everything. After pedestrians come bikes, then cars, then cabs and finally buses. Cabs stop for no one with the exception of buses. A friend of mine told me that his cab hit a guy on a bike. Most cars, especially cabs, will honk to let you know that they're coming. This is a warning to get out of the way. The will most likely not stop or even slow down. Even ifit seems that you have th righ of way as a pedestian a cab will just move on in. You will quickly learn how and when to cross the streets in Beijing. I'm amazed that I saw no accidents with cars, bikes or pedestrians when I was there.
Be careful on pavements -many holes, spikes, levels etc. You get used to it after a while
Be even more careful crossing roads -try and be with someone else or in a group
Potentially dangerous foods are everywhere -enjoy!
The worst is probably McDonalds and other 'western' cuisine. Pizza Hut is a possible exception.
Public transport is good esp subway. Busses are a good way of getting around.
Also, be careful crossing streets, traffic is crazy and really busy, as you can see in the picture!! Until you know what you're doing shadow someone or use the overpasses. Same for bike riding.
Traffic... Who said rush hour traffic was bad back home...jeez. Careful with the bicycles as well :).
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