Mongolia

Bad driving in Beijing: Poor planning, or lax enforcement?

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The city’s oldest trails are narrow and in need of protection. A good first step is to ban cars in certain alleys.

Bad policy often inspires the best constructive complaints. That was the case this week when the city government decided to ban some forms of mobility scooters from the streets in an attempt to ease Beijing’s longstanding traffic problems. Tom Arnstein, at Pekingese The staff, and community in the comment section, provided some catharsis for those struggling to commute in a city where cars attempting to board pedestrian bridges is considered normal motor vehicle operation.

After nearly 14 years in Beijing, I can understand that I dodged certain fatalities at intersections only to be run over by an e-bike (e-bike: the silent killer) on the sidewalk.

Park on the sidewalk. Drive on bike lanes. Reckless disregard for pedestrians. (One of Beijing’s axioms is that people who don’t want to be hit by cars should stop being poor and buy their own cars. Problem solved.) Anyone who has been in Beijing long enough will have their own traffic misery.

I mean, who among us hasn’t committed acts of microaggression (some justified, some not) in the name of traffic safety at some point?

An international business owner is known for posting photos of illegally parked cars on WeChat. In my own moment of weakness, I once nearly started WW3 in my local neighborhood by nearly flattening my dog ​​as a car sped by on the bike path – it actually scratched her leash . Luckily, the driver was content just shouting obscenities, and I was content to stand there, 19 stone, and let him blow off.

The car is an issue that wedges between the international community and the citizens of Beijing. Many foreign residents in Beijing avoid driving themselves, instead riding bicycles, scooters, electric bikes, public transport or walking. When the car is needed, they are summoned by the app. A considerable portion of the local population in Beijing prefers to drive by themselves, and this proportion is still growing.

As a result, Beijing’s roads, sidewalks and bike lanes have become cultural fault lines.When filing a complaint, is it posted on Pekingese Complaining about a “Beijing driver” on a forum or over a beer at XL has an unspoken assumption that said driver didn’t grow up in Connecticut, Canterbury or Canberra.

So I know that, as a foreign resident and a keen pedestrian, my own complaints come with some baggage. But culture clashes or not, Beijing’s traffic conditions present some very real safety and urban environmental concerns.

My personal complaint is that drivers try to zip through tight alleys expecting everyone in front of them to immediately give way to their awesome SUVs.it makes sense it seems to me like this Restricting motor vehicle traffic on these historic narrow lanes would be a great start to revitalizing downtown as a cultural space.

Many cities around the world have policies restricting the use of cars in historic areas to residents and those with special permits. Fewer cars also means wider lanes for other vehicles, as the alleys will no longer be clogged with quasi-legally parked cars on either side.

Some alleys have already conducted experiments in this regard. Nanluoguxiang is technically closed to motor vehicles at certain times, but any such policy comes down to enforcement.

In solving urban problems, there is a tendency to seek the lowest hanging fruit. Who can forget the big barbecue party in 2013 as part of the “crackdown” on polluters? Imposing an embargo on electric scooters is arguably easier than stopping black Audis from driving down imaginary pedestrian-only alleys.

But the city’s traffic problems are real and serious, and addressing them will require policies bigger than a scooter ban.

Jeremiah Jenne is a writer, educator and historian based in Beijing. He maintains Granite Studio’s Jottings website and is the co-host of the Chinese history and culture podcast Barbarians at the Gate.You can follow him on Twitter @granite studio.

Photo: telegraph.co.uk



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