Monday, July 4, 2011
Xi'an's traffic is much worse now than it was when I left China in 2009. And it's multiple factors more intense than when I arrived in China in 2006.
Qian learned how to drive in the US last year. She hadn't been back to China since getting behind the wheel for the first time. Traffic was the first thing she commented on upon returning to her home. Switching lanes without looking or using a signal, stopping and reversing on the shoulder of a highway, those turning left going before those going straight at an intersection, etc. - she couldn't believe the audacity Chinese drivers possess given the tight spaces in which they have to operate.
Chinese cities, so dense when compared to western metropoli, are already so crowded. The addition of scores of personal automobiles to Chinese cities is causing serious gridlock. Unfortunately, there's really no solution to the problem of China's increasingly cramped traffic lanes.
China already has plenty of public transportation options - buses that constantly run, trains, subways, and a rapidly developing high-speed train network - and the masses use them. Several Chinese people I know who own cars often ride buses or trains. But there are just too many people who are beginning to accumulate wealth who want to own a car for the increasing traffic problems to go away.
In many respects, I think it's great that so many Chinese are getting to achieve their dreams of car ownership (the red blood flowing through my American veins just perked up as I typed this sentence on the morning of July 4th). Overall, though, I find China to be far less charming of a place to live the more congested its streets become.