There's a lot of open space in North America and when we live there we don't think about it too much. However, the luxury of living with plenty of elbow room on and off the road is a bonus that we take for granted. Lots of wide highway lanes, plenty of room to turn, easy access roads both to get on and off the highways. It's a breeze to drive at home except when the snow flies. That's another story.
But here in China the rules are different. Actually there are no rules. . You may wonder how a country can function like that but after three weeks here I have concluded that the system, or lack of it, works just fine. . We could offer tourists a brief primer, perhaps called Walking 101, so that newbies can enjoy their holidays without getting run over. . Let's start with pedestrians. They have no rights in China. I'm not talking about human rights here. Given that the city roads are so congested, the millions and millions of what are now called "e-bikes" or formerly known as mopeds, alternate between the roads and the sidewalks. Oh, and please add small motorcycles to this group.
The e-bikes come out of nowhere and you must constantly look back to prepare yourself. Every rider has a horn and likes to use it- often and even when totally unnecessary. In North America how often do you use your horn? In China they use their horns every day.
Red lights, green lights- there's no difference in China. Major intersections do have traffic lights which include right of way for pedestrians, in theory that is. The green lit pedestrian icon on the lights are prominent but remember not to get lulled in to a false sense of security. Cars and e-bikes will literally run you off the street with their horns blaring, and to prevent you from getting stressed out over that- accept it because there's nothing you can do about it.
Traffic on busy roadways would be driven to a halt if they took the polite, North American approach. There just isn't time or space to wait 20 or 30 seconds while pedestrians clear the streets. They have to fend for themselves and wait for an opportune time. There seems to be no enforcement of traffic laws and the city seems to function quite nicely without them.
The biggest mistake a tourist could make coming to China would be to rent a car. Walking around can be perilous enough but a foreign driver could easily suffer a fatal heart attack while negotiating the traffic in this country. Changing lanes, cutting off other drivers, routinely going through red lights, u-turns on busy roads, snuggling up to cars in the next lane with just inches to spare- all of this would create road rage madness in North America, but here in China it's just business as usual.
The drivers are fearless, relaxed, confident and skilled. No one gets uptight or upset. It's just how the cities work. . The Chinese are stoic people, task oriented and hard working. They provide excellent and gracious service. Just keep your eyes and ears open when you venture on the streets.