Xizhimen Viaduct is Too Confusing

If you have a chance to visit Beijing, besides Tiananmen Square, you have to visit the Xizhimen Viaduct 西直门立交桥. I am quite amazed by how confusing it is. I always wanted to drive on that bridge, because it is a serious challenge for anyone’s IQ.

The big interchanged was built about 10 years ago to solve the complicated transportation problems. After 4 years of design, and 200 million RMB to build, the viaduct becomes a headache for drivers. News about drivers spent hours on the viaduct often appear on newspaper. Let me examine this wonderful viaduct.

The “Classical” Xizhimen Bridge Challenge

Imagine that if you are driving from the west to east to the viaduct, and you want to turn right to south bound (a typical right turn scenario), you would expect to directly turn right at the viaduct. The ridiculous thing is, there is no right turn lane. The correct answer is:

Turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right….

If you are lucky enough, and at every turn, you cleverly identify the correct lane, then you can get to the direction. The real situation is, very limited number of drivers can figure it out. They often find themselves driving toward a highway leaving Beijing. Drivers who ever found out the right road even cannot make sure the next time, he is as lucky as the previous time.

Below is the diagram of the viaduct. It is not the problem of Google. The calculated everything right.


Bigger Map

The route in the diagram only lead you to the south bound direction, not on the expressway. If you want to stay in the second ring road (the express way), below is how you can do it.


Bigger map

Amazing, isn’t it?

12 thoughts on “Xizhimen Viaduct is Too Confusing

  1. Laurentius Metaal

    I always try to avoid this bridge but occasionally I have to be in the area and then, just like the other drivers, I go round and round….and round…and round….

  2. ddjiii

    I think the most basic problem with this intersection (and all the ring road intersections in Beijing) is requiring everybody to get on a limited access highway to travel somewhere only a few hundred meters away. Beijing is the hardest city to get around I know of, bar none.

  3. David Feng

    Xizhimen used to be an awfully high (5.5 m!) suspended roundabout. Simplistic design loved by about a zillion cars — thus the suspended traffic jams. They tore down the bridge in 1999 to make way for a newer bridge, this time with flying ramps. Sadly, the ramps flew the wrong way — there were unconfirmed rumors of the designer taking her life.

    Xizhimen is called in Beijing Subway forums as 西直人流 (the flowing masses at Xizhimen), inspired after the Beijing Subway switched to four-character station names such as Jintai Xizhao (金台夕照) on Line 10.

    Easier to flip to the 2nd Ring Road southbound if you exit Xizhimen Outer Street ahead of time, use Zhanlanguan Road south for one crossing, flip east to Chegongzhuang Street, and then head right (ie south) onto the side road of the 2nd Ring.

  4. tom

    in fact this bridge is our masterpiece-we chinese call it Great Spaghetti, if u go to beijing, both great wall and great spaghetti are worth visiting, more importantly, latter one is free and u can’t miss it.

  5. Laurentius Metaal

    @ Tom: Not only can you not miss it, you can never leave it either. For a tourist attraction it would be important that the people check if they have a visa that does not expire before they are able to find their way out of the spaghetti bowl. :-)

  6. Melody

    i’ve been read your blog for 6 months. Today i just found i can leave my message below your blog without need my own blog registting. That’s a good news:)

  7. Ko

    Xizhimen is one “wonder of the world”.

    The world wonders why it was built and how to climb out once you fall in. It is like a deep, bottomless well, only horizontal.

    I do not drive but I did see it and ride in taxi around it several times in Beijing. One time the Taxi took the wrong lane wait so long, driver finally agreed to shut the meter off. Not funny but funny.

    I remember the original bridge, it was much simple and better. In fact I have the old fond memory of passing there years ago when they used to store the cabbage on the road in a big pile. If still did that today, the drivers would get out of their cars to cook dinner and eat the cabage, no time penalty. Then fewer peope would starge to death on the Xizhimen Viaduct. Perhaps I should put that in the Beijing city suggestion box.

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