Chinese Stories in English
Liuzhou Turns Right
I've previously noted that Liuzhou drivers can legally turn right onto busy streets without stopping, even against a red light (see here); and that they often do so without looking to the left to check for oncoming traffic (here). This strikes us Westerners as crazy, but to be fair, I should point out that there seems to be a reason for their behavior – not a justification, certainly, but at least an explanation: They're worried that, if they stop to let one person get ahead of them, fifty more will crowd in as well. There's so much traffic on the road that, if they stop to wait for a real opening, they might get stuck in one spot for a long, long time.
My best guess? Drivers feel their responsibility is limited to making sure they don't run into anything in front of them. They trust other drivers to feel the same, so they'll head directly for even the slightest opening in the flow of traffic, confident that drivers behind the open space will be alert enough to avoid hitting them. Their confidence is often misplaced.
Since people typically don't drive very fast here, most of the accidents caused by cutting in like this are fender-benders, at least when a car hits a car. Unfortunately, though, motorbike drivers also do the same thing. They burst suddenly out of driveways and alleyways onto busy streets with barely a pro forma glance at the traffic coming from the left. I'd guess that at least half of the car/bike accidents I've seen here in Liuzhou occurred in exactly this way. And when a car or truck hits a motorbike, much more than a fender gets bent, even if they're going slowly.
A while back I saw a woman driving an expensive car who wanted to turn right from a driveway onto a busy street. She'd had to stop for some reason, and her prospects for getting going again did not look good. Amazingly, a bus driver stopped to let her in! True, the bus would have had to stop anyway, about ten feet further along the road, behind a line of cars waiting for a stoplight. But still, most Liuzhou drivers in that situation would have crowded up as close as possible to the cars in front, and not worried in the slightest about blocking the lady from getting out onto the street.
That bus driver's random act of kindness was something one doesn't see often enough here.
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Today we've published a translation of a newspaper article, "Fallen Senior" (story #4 here), about another random act of kindness. It seems that an old woman was hit by a motorcycle while crossing a street and some workers helped her. It's sad that, before the workers came along, the woman sat in the street for an unspecified time while an unspecified number of people ignored her; and it's even sadder that an act of kindness like this is sufficiently unusual in Liuzhou to warrant mentioning in the newspaper.
We've also published a newspaper story, "Cops in Accident" (story #2 here), about a motorcycle getting hit by a truck while making a right turn onto a busy street. The driver was killed and his passenger seriously injured. And what makes the story sufficiently unusual that a newspaper would want to publish it? The motorcycle driver and his passenger were both cops. The reporter offers alternative possibilities for the cause of the accident, but for me the clincher is that the two cops were said to be on their way back to the precinct at the end of their shift – in too much of a hurry to look left.
UPDATE: In the spring of 2014, signs were placed at some of the major intersections advising drivers that turning right on red is permitted "when safe" (安全情况下). The "w/o stopping" part was not expressly stated. As best as I can figure out, in the local drivers' lexicon "when safe" means "when you have a horn loud enough to scare the bejabers out of anyone within 50 meters.
On 7/9/2013, 72hours wrote: Nice to meet you. today I read in the library, and my dad is a librarian , he showed me a visiting card, and said he could not understand the English in the card, so I helped him translate it, and also visited the site. These stories are worth thinking about, we should learn to care about others. I hope you can live happily in Liuzhou ：）
On 7/9/2013, Fannyi wrote: I'm glad you enjoyed the blog.
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