If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday 30 March 2011

China Syndrome

I was alerted to this alarming compilation by Joe Public. It's a video put out by the authorities in China in an attempt to increase people's awareness of traffic hazards. In China, it went viral, and I can see why. It is utterly amazing. I mean, you watch it and ask yourself: what the hell are they doing? The driving is suicidal, and I don't mean that in the usual sense of 'reckless' - I mean they genuinely look as if they are trying to get themselves killed in the nastiest way possible. Hmm, there's a truck - I'll see if I can ride under it flat out - hah, he's steering out of the way, but if I go left ... yep, got 'im. Hey, there's a car approaching me head on - I'll see if I can turn in front of him and die - yep, here we go ...

It's like the Place de la Concorde without the discipline and courtesy. And the crazy thing is that the most vulnerable people - the riders of small bikes and trishaws - seem to be the most reckless.

Watch and be terrified.

Tip of the full-face to Joe.


  1. This video is almost unbelievable. It seems in most instances, both vehicles involved are completely oblivious of each other. It’s like you wrote, “I mean they genuinely look as if they are trying to get themselves killed in the nastiest way possible”. I’m shaking my head, what a sobering video.

  2. There is absolutely no awareness of other vehicles and their likely movements at all. I suspect it is a lot to do with China's recent economic growth - people are still thinking in terms of masses of pedal cycles, and haven't yet grasped the speed and dynamics of heavy motorised traffic. They are like we were in the early 1900s - and we had a lot of deaths then, even though there were only a handful of cars on the roads. Give 'em a couple of generations and they will be driving as safely as those in the West (which may not be saying much) but it will be a painful learning curve.

  3. Our loving Government usually protects us from pictures of dead people since we are so squeamish and might get confused.

    The bit @3:10-3:40 reminded me of Pacman, there were so many cyclists and scooters crisscrossing in every direction that the car was bound to get one eventually.
    I note that the one he got was on a zebra crossing at the time; anyone know Chinese law on such crossings? Chinese students in my city either ignore them entirely or are painfully uncertain that cars will actually stop if they are using one.

  4. I wonder what their driving test consists of..?

    "The bit @3:10-3:40 reminded me of Pacman..."

    Frogger!! :)

  5. It seems that zebra crossings are pre marked impact zones!

  6. Julia - yes! I was thinking of what it reminded me of, and it's Frogger. Good spot.

    Nikos - I wondered that, but then I am not sure if those striped areas are pedestrian crossings at all, but perhaps just markers outlining the junction, saying 'warning, mayhem beyond'. What amazed me was the way that bikes would ride across them, perpendicular to the traffic, and go between a line of cars, and - splat. Could they not see that coming?

  7. Madness, literally. Have linked to this on Twitter. What a find.

  8. Thanks for the link to Twitter. A first for this blog, I believe!

  9. Frankly, stunning. But then I looked up "Chinese Traffic Laws" on Google.

    A precis of the wiki entry:
    - There are traffic regulations, but no associated laws to enforce them.
    - Pass on the right, unless you prefer passing on the left into incoming traffic.
    - Right of way belongs to whoever gets there first. If in doubt, avoiding eye contact and going for it is considered declaration of intent.
    - It is a recent and only technical requirement to stop at lights, pedestrian crossings etc.
    - Any vehicle with a government or military plate is exempt from the regulations anyway.

    Amazingly, there are only an estimated 100,000 RTA fatalities a year as a result...

  10. Only 100k? We saw most of that in one 12-minute clip! Given the facts, I suppose it makes sense, but I would have thought that simple self-preservation would have ensured some modification of the anything-goes rule.


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