It’s been some time since I’ve actually driven a car, and unlike the UK people here drive on the right (and the left and the middle), so I need to get some practice before being unleashed onto the roads.
My first lesson after getting a Chinese driving license was driving round in a deserted holiday camp, driving up and down between the decaying rope swings and climbing frames. This was perfect for getting the hang of turning at junctions and reversing round corners.
The second lesson was at the old stadium built for the Asian Games, a few years before the Bird’s Nest. The sports grounds are circled by well-maintained ring road with a roundabout and numerous empty car parks. This was intended to be a straightforward driving refresher, but turned into a hazard avoidance class.
In the space of half an hour:
- Driving along an empty road. Pedestrians watch me approach. Waited for the last minute, and then pushed their pram in front of the car.
- Driving along an empty road towards a T-junction on which I have the right of way. Waiting car watches me approach. Waited for the last minute then pulls out. He doesn’t turn the steering wheel so the car ends up in front of me, perpendicular to the kerb. I have to stop while he figures out what he’s achieved and how to reverse into oncoming traffic.
- I slow for a zebra crossing. The man walking across gets a phone call and stops for a chat in the middle of the road.
- Driving along a wide two-lane road, there are regularly people driving along on the wrong side towards me. No other cars, so not overtaking – they just don’t see a problem with using the whole road.
- My first time round an anticlockwise roundabout, there’s obviously somebody reversing clockwise.
- Wide pedestrian areas on each side of the road. Everyone decides they’d much rather walk in the middle of the road.
- Bicycles, coming from all angles
This was all avoidable but mentally exhausting to the inexperienced driver.
This isn’t even the busy city streets, and it’s just as bad in the countryside with motorbikes and tractors shooting out of side roads.
We went back to the same spot a week later, and it was just the same with the added bonus of a family descaling and barbecuing a fish whilst watching my reversing and parallel parking practice.
On the way back the car in front screeched to a halt in the middle of the expressway. We stopped sharply behind, and could see he’d just stopped to take a video call on his phone. In the middle of the expressway…
In the interests of safety I wasn’t taking photos whilst driving, so the post is illustrated with just a few of the fine examples of parking I see every day.