- The international traffic rules are always the best laws possible
- We should always follow the laws although in China, most people don’t do it
But after my visit to Xiamen, and to be more exact, in Gulangyu Island, I started to think twice about what I have believed for so many years. The key question is, why we need a pedestrain crossing in the first place, and why people cannot just go across the road as they wish? I know it is crazy ideas but let me explain more.
Life with No Cars or Few Cars
Gulangyu is a wonderful place where the small island don’t have any cars (basically). There are many coffee shops, nice villa, and wonderful small streets to wander around. They don’t have cars, and the streets are not designed to cars, or even bikes.
The life is great!
It also reminds me of the nice water town like Tong Li or Zhou Zhuang – especially when it is night.
Then I have to think again, and do some reflection about what we get from automobiles, and what we have lost.
Crazy Action of Beijing University
This echos to another piece of news from Beijing University. They started to pain Zebra Crossing lines in many roads, and ask all the students and faculty to cross the streets only via Zebra Crossing. That is ridiculous. A campus should be designed for walking students, and for bike riders at most, not for cars. Who are those people driving race cars on campus? Campus belongs to pedestrian, that is for sure.
Instead of enforcing speed limit of 5 km for cars or ban cars from certain “central areas”, they did the opposite. What is the point to force students to use pedestrians? Is it safer, like to say jail is the safest place for most people – no robbery, and not traffic accident?
A City is in the Middle
A city is not as a small town of Zhou Zhuang or Tong Li, or the island of Gulangyu, but it is not completely a car world. Cars have turned our city into a big machine with little life, especially in Shanghai. Why we should care cars so much and don’t care about pedestrian? Why don’t we move the needle a little bit toward the pedestrian friendly side, and put more constrains on cars, not pedestrian?
China v.s. developed countries
Most of my U.S. friends complained about jay walking and always list it as top of their culture shock list. BUT, wait a minute. Let me tell you this. Do you think a country with 44 cars per 1000 people should have the same rule as a country with 750 cars per 1000 people?
That affects the driver and pedestrian’s behavior in two ways.
1. Pedestrian has to use road crossing in US, since if they don’t, there are high chance to get hit by a car with so many cars. In China, let’s just put few cities like Shanghai and Beijing aside, in most cities, there are much more people than cars on the streets, and crossing is safer compared to US.
2. In US, cars yield for pedestrian simply because that is possible to do, but in China, there are much more people than cars, and if you use the same behavior, that is impossible to cross.
By noticing the small difference, I believe we should think about something that work better in China.
I am a strong believer of ruling using laws, and believe everyone should follow laws, but I do have some problem with some of the laws we have – to follow what other countries have in place is easy, but may not be the best way. Back to the urban planning topics, I am a turned-environmentalist, and want to push to give lives back to people so people can live a slower, and more graceful life, than competing with cars for the right of the road. Hmmm… I am not talking about Shanghai – Shanghai is a different animal than most other cities.
Met with MC today (as always, try to keep my friend annoymous) and spent 9 hours together. Very nice conversation and learn a lot. Sillicon Valley does have something so unique, exciting and it never lacks of inspiration. Great.
BTW, Byebye, April of 2009, and tomorrow is the first day of the May Holiday.