After continuous 10 days of driving in San Jose area, I feel I do not drive as well as before in Shanghai. Recently, Wendy clearly feels unsafe when she is on board on the car. I feel the same. I start to become either too dangerous or too troublesome for other drivers in Shanghai. Here are some examples.
Stop at the STOP Sign
I tried to stop at the STOP sign. There is a STOP sign at the exit of my residential area. I need to make the left turn. I stop at the STOP sign, which is about 2 meters away from the main road – it is the road for bicycles. If a car follows me, 2 out of 3 times, the car will horn at me and almost hit me. They didn’t expect a car to stop for no reasons – there was no car running on the main road, and there is no bicycles on the bicycle lane.
Only after I stop, I feel the STOP sign is at the wrong location. After I stop, I still cannot see whether there is cars running toward my position on the car lane – there are a high tree fence between the car’s lane and the bicycle’s lane. I stop, but I don’t have a clear sight about whether I should go or not. So I just stop, keep driving, pass the STOP sign and stop again at the edge of the car’s lane. Only after that can I see whether there is car or not clearly. So sometimes, I just stop just in the middle of the bicycle lane, and force some bicycles to stop beside my car. Often, they will stare angrily at me or shout.
Conclusion: It is right to follow the original rule – don’t stop at the stop sign but be cautious enough about the coming cars.
Go Near a Merging Point
Common practice in Shanghai. Just as the previous senario, if I approach a place where there is out-coming traffic, and there is STOP sign there, I have to slow down and watch the decision the driver of the car (90 degree of my direction) makes. If he happen to decide to go (any way), I have to brake and slow down. If he seems to be patient enough, I will slowly and carefully pass by, ready to brake at any time.
If I get used to driving straight ahead, and do not pay enough attention to the cars at the T-junction, lots of cars just suddenly appears and shock me. It is very dangerous. I encounter this after two or three times – the two cars are very near. Thank God I brake quickly enough.
Conclusion: No matter there is green light, which direction you go, always pay attention cars on the left, on the right, before and sometime after you.
At Green Light
When there is green light ahead, the typical way is to slow down – to about 30 km/h in some crowded area. “Impossible is nothing” at the cross road. Sometimes, bicycles will go across and pedestrian will appear from anywhere.
So green light equals yellow light. That means you have to drive very carefully.
Yellow light means green light – people don’t see the difference.
Red light is red light – for most of drivers, but not all. :-)
The habit of driving fast as if a green light cross is the same as other part of the road no longer works.
Meeting the Pedestrian
Just now, about 9:00 PM, when I am back to home, I just left the gate, I saw two girls going to cross before me.
My habit learnt from last month worked. I stopped – full stopped and waited them to go before me. They stood there, and waited for me.
10 seconds later, I waved my hand and let them go. They just don’t go and looked at me in a strange way. I insisted to let them go first. Later, they went on. 10 meters away, they still look back at my car. Obviously they wanted to know what is wrong with my car.
It is great waste of time. I was lucky that there was no car behind me. Otherwise, I will create another angry driver there.
Conclusion: Don’t try to yield for pedestrian, because pedestrians are not used to go before a started engine yet.
I am very confused in the last several days. The problem I face is, if I follow the traffic rule (the traffic rules are not difference too much in U.S. and China), I will be a trouble maker. I, as an individual will greatly slow down the whole traffic system. I will waste other’s time by stopping at a stop sign or even yeild for pedstrain. I will hit other’s car for not paying enough attention when I drive or injure some cyclist.
After I think really hard, my conclusion is, every society has its own rule. If I have the power to change the rule, I change the rule. I still can do a lot of things with my own effort.
If I cannot change the rule, I will follow the EXISTING rule instead of making trouble. To follow a rule that is only in someone’s mind or on the book does not mean you are a good player in this society.
For doing business in China, is it the same way? Following the same business rule in U.S. may not work in China. What if insisting on some rules will hurt someone (partners, customers?) and finally hurt the business itself? If you are the only one to follow a rule you truly believe (like the “right” traffic rule), the business may encounter some serious problems. Maybe to crash into another car is not better than following a rule that I firmly believe. No world is ideal.
The “doing something you think is right” rule does not apply to me. I don’t think after I hit other car off the road, I still believe I am the best driver in Shanghai – “Look at all othe other driver: they didn’t hit any person or car in 20 years, but how can you claim you are better driver for following a rule others don’t follow?” Maybe what I do is to promote traffic rules on blog, and on other way instead of practicing it on the road? What a wired answer I have. To contribute to make a better place to live is not easy.