Category Archives: Transportation

My First Car Rental Experience in Hainan

I just realized the difference between China and US is less and less obvious. Let me give you some signs. The recent development is car rental. We tried our first car rental in Sanya this holiday, and it worked almost as well as in the US.

Price

The price is twice as high as in US: 330 RMB/day (or 50 USD/day) for Toyota Yaris vs 25 USD/day at AVIS. However, that also reflected the price of cars (twice as high) and other related costs in China – like all kinds of difference taxes, and fees paid to the government related to car ownership.

Reservation

Reservation is more complicated than US, but still easy to use. We used this company’s service this time: http://www.hainan365.com/. Their reservation telephone is 0898-66287008.

The good thing is, they have a dedicated person to help you – you can always call her mobile phone to make arrangement.

Pickup and Return

In US, it is pretty standard – you directly drive to the AVIS car return at the garage, park the car there, and it is.

For this car company, they offer to provide the car to the hotel of where you stay at 50 RMB service fee. You can make reservation to their people and you can return the car at the domestic departure level – the exact location where your friends or taxi will drop you off at airport. You give the car to the person coming to pick up the car, and you enter the airport – even better than AVIS. The only concern is, you have to make a phone call to make appointment to the person.

Car Condition

This time, the Yaris is only 10,000 KM in mileage, a very new car. We returned it at 11000 KM. The car is very nice – just as any new car. It is automatic shift, and come with empty gas – you need to fill in the gas yourself, and return it with empty gas.

I will Always Rent!

For my next trip to Sanya, I will always rent a car. For my travel in other places like Hainan – a place with wonderful scenery, not a city like Shanghai – I will definitely rent a car again. There are more and more car rental companies in China emerging, like 1hai.cn, Zhizun. I am sure in 5 years, car rental can be a big industry and will become the new lifestyle in China.

Right Lane – Most Important Road in City

The reason I love business world is, you have to reach a level of excellency in digging into details of all the aspects of your business to really be able to deliver a world class product or services. I tend to practice this skill in worlds other than business. Transportation of large cities is one of the area I spent a lot of time thinking. Here is one of my observation.

Smaller Road Blocks Leads to Better Transportation

I have the gut feeling that the smaller the blocks are, the better the transportation is. Examples are Puxi vs Pudong, or Shanghai vs Beijing. Puxi has much more cars than Pudong, and Beijing has much more big roads than Shanghai, but the Puxi is better in transportation than Pudong, and Shanghai is better than Beijing. Why? When I tried to verify this conclusion and to find the reason, I found some insights. One of them is the importance of right lane.

Right Lane is the Most Important Lane in a City

I thought all lanes are created equal – because they are equal in terms of width. But they are not.

I found this because of the Huashan Road construction. The Huashan Road is the road before my office. It is a main road that goes to Xujiahui on the south. There are 5 lanes at the crossroad with Hongqiao Road. One left lane, one left/forward lane, two forward lanes, and one right lane. The traffic is heavy but for many years, it went on well.

All of a sudden, one day, the whole Huashan Road is blocked. The long queue of cars line from Hong Qiao Road to Guangyuan Road (that is about 1 km long), and extends to Huahai Road (about 1.5 km long). Cars are jammed there, all the day time. From my window, I can see the long line, and hear continous horn from impatient drivers. If you thinking about 2KM queue, and there are 4-5 lanes on the road, you can imagine how many cars are impacted daily. Even buses detoured from this section of road.

What happened? Is there a big change?

Nothing except they closed a right lane at Huahsan Road and Hongqiao Road, and merge it into the straight lane, becaues of the Xujiahui Metro Station construction at Grand Gateway.

Right Lane Multiplied by Time

It is a shocking discovering for me. Before, I thought a right lane = 1/5 of the traffic. It turned out to be the wrong assumption. The key characteristic of right lane is, cars are allowed to turn right ALL the time – at greent light and red light. Cars at forward and left lane have to wait for red light to really “use” the lane to move. What is the percentage of time they can see green light?

At a crossroad of equally important two roads, if there is no seperate left turn light, each side can only use 1/2 of the time. However, that is the whole story. Since the left turn and forward traffic needs to wait for each other, the lane actually is used 1/4 of all the time (assuming left turn and forward are of the same traffic). If there is seperate left turn light, the forward is actually 1/4 of all the time.

Meanwhile, no matter what time it is, the right lane is always available. In a crossroad like Huashan Road and Hong Qiao Road, the utilization of right lane is almost 100% during day time (unlike most other crossroads). The conclusion is, a right lane can archive traffic 4 times as a left or forward lane under full utilization senario.

If the right lane is combined into the forward lane, right lane cars have to wait for the 1/4 of the green light, effectively decreased the output of the road – 3/4 of the traffic capacity is cut.

That is the secret why reducing 1/5 of the lanes causing the capacity to drop to almost half. If you take the capacity of an always green light road to be 1, previously, it was 2 (1 + 1/4 * 4), and now it is 1.25 (1/4 * 5), a 35% decrease.

This translate to the long queue of roads.

Right Lanes and Road Grid

When there are more smaller roads and smaller road grid, the key is, there are much more right lanes than big road system. Like highways, although there are many forward lanes, right lane per km is much less than smaller road system. If it makes sense for expressways to build large road system, it does not apply to cities like Beijng and Shanghai.

With right lanes, the road utilization is increased, because cars can choose to make right turn if they can, and causing less cars on the forward lanes. Meanwhile, right lane cars fills into the empty road when there is red light at the crossing road. In a road grid of many right lanes, the ratio of cars and road area is much higher (higher utlization), and causing a more efficent road system.

P.S. I enjoys learning insights of things like this a lot, just the same way as I run my business. Many people can do the same thing, but only few people really know what they are doing. The excellence of understanding is what I am chasing after.

P.S. 2. It also shows the power of convinience and the meaning of keep doing for a long time. Many things looked alike, if you don’t take the accumulation of time into account, but it is the time factor that makes something so unique. Like business, many companies look alike, but only very few of them can focus on what they determined to focus on, and keep doing it for a long time. That is huge difference.

Shanghai to Jinshanwei

I got an email about how to get to Jinshanwei on July 22, 2009, just to watch the Solar Eclipse.

Hello Jian Shuo,

I´ve discovered your blog since I´ve been looking for information about travelling to Shanghai. We have planned our hollidays this year visiting Shanghai so we´ll observe the 22 july total solar eclipse. We realised that one of the best place in conditions to observe the eclipe is on shore in Jinshanwei. The fact is that day, our lodge is located in an hotel in Shanghai and as far as we have to arrive to Jinshan before 9.41 am, I´m concerned about how to cover the distance between Shanghai and Jinshan and how long does it takes the trip, so it happens in a labour day. What´s your opinion? Do you recommend to go by taxi? How much aprox would it cost? If not, better by bus? Where to leave from?. I haven´t found any information about it in the net.

Sorry for so many questions, but for us, this eclipse is a very important part of our travel, and I´m very concerned about the transportation.

Thank you very much for your help.

I didn’t know that Jinshanwei is the best place – maybe just because it is far from Shanghai and won’t be disturbed by the high buildings, and traffic? Although I do doubt whether less than 100 km makes any difference for Solar Eclipse watching, let me help my reader out: Where is Jinshanwei, and how to get there?

Where is Jinshanwe?

Here is the Google Map, and you can see the location:

Jinshanwei is sandwiched by Shanghai and Hangzhou, and is at the shore of the Hangzhou Bay.

It is at the end of A4 highway, and at the intersection of A6. If you know how big the Suburb Ring A30 is, what I can tell you is, it is far beyond the A30.

It is 70 km away from the city center.

How to Get There

There are several options: taxi and bus.

Taxi

It seems taxi is the only feasible approach for foreigners to get there. It takes at least 200 RMB to get there, but it is very convenient. Call any taxi on the street, and tell the driver to bring you there. I am sure the drive will be very happy – like winning lottery that day.

It takes about one hour there.

Metro + Bus

If you want to save money and you are adventurous, you can try to use public transportation. Here is how you get there.

1. Take Metro Line #1 and get to Lianhua Road Station 莲花路站. I will ignore the steps to get to Metro Line #1 – check a metro map. At Lianhua Road station, make sure you get to the South Square of station – exit first, and use the underground tunnel to get to the other side of railway.

2. Take Lianshi Line 莲石专线 at the South Square of Lianhua Road. Get to the terminal station, and you are at Jinshan area. This can be very cheap – I guess it is something around 10-20 RMB.

What is next? I have no idea. I guess you may have a plan.

Good luck!

Bus is Faster than Car

After taking bus to commute in the morning for a little bit more than a week, I realized that buses runs faster than private cars in Shanghai. Even included the time to park at the station, passenger off-load and load, it is still faster than private cars. It takes about 40-50 minutes to arrive in Xujiahui, or 1 hour at peak time. There are several reasons to it.

Public Transportaion Bus has Special Lanes

On Zhaojiabang Road, the right most lane was designated for bus. It has yellow line seperating the lane from the rest.

When I drive my car, I just feel many private cars still often violate the rule, and run on the lane, but when I am on the bus, I feel it is still much faster because of having relatively less cars on the lane. At red stop, when the car lanes have backlog of 1 km, the bus just go ahead and run – run – run until very close to the red light line.

This save the bus much time.

Bus Drivers Drive Wildly

Bus drivers don’t follow the traffic rule as strictly as other car drivers. They just drive wildly, and policemen tend not to care about them. Why? I saw some cases when the policeman stops the bus, and the whole bunch of people on the bus surrounded the policeman and protest to ask the policeman release the driver.

Taking the 20 meter road of Jin Xiu Road 锦绣路 and Pujian Road 浦建路 for example. The bus stop was very badly designed. They have a stop at the right side of the road, which is the 5th lane from the left, but most of the buses need to take immediate left turn after they leave the stop. The problem the bus drivers face is, how to pull the car from the inner most lane to the outermost lane in 20 meters – that is only about 4-5 bus longer. The real situation is, in the morning at rush hours, all the lanes are packed with cars to like 1 km long behind this point. If I drive the bus, I may need crush some cars to get there.

The bus driver always have ways. They pull inside the lanes just as if the other cars does not exist, and the solid white line between the lanes do not exist. It is the car driver’s job to stop in a rush, or forced to another lane. Anyway, every morning, and for every bus, they can manage to do it. I is a chaos situation, just like a big fish jump into a small pond.

For some bus drivers who cannot get to the left turn lane, don’t worry. They simply use the right lane or the straight forward lane to turn left at green light.

The other example is, on Pusan Road 浦三路, I always find my bus running on the left side of the yellow lane, which is running opposite to the traffic… I agree, that is faster.

Accessibility of Public Transportation

Andy asked:

ACCESS and availability of taxis at to two Shanghai metro stations; Jin’An Temple and Zhonshan Park

On Thursday 22nd March 2007 I will be arriving at Pudong Airport about 16.00 and then go Maglev to Long Yang metro station. I will have with me a suitcase on wheels as well as a small back pack. I plan to go from Long Yang metro to either Jin’An Temple or Zhongshan Park station.

These are my questions:

[1] Do either of these metro stations have elevators or escalators?

[2] Which of these two stations will it be easier to pick up a taxi from at at 17.30 on a Thursday evening?

Regards

Andy

Accessibility is a problem for Shanghai. It is not as accessible as it should be. There are some facilities in newer buildings, and public facilities, but many of them do not work, just because there are too few people using it. It is a social environment – accessible facility is not common, so disabled people normally do not go out on their own – they just stay home if there is not anything urgent or important enough. That explains why we seldom see people wit wheelchair in the city, but I don’t believe the percentage of disabled person is significantly lower than other city in other country. So it is a negative feedback loop – with fewer people using the facility, they do not operate well, thus fewer people use them.

So back to your question, there are elevator in Pudong Airport. I am sure about it. It is at the arrival hall, and you can use it to go to the second floor (where the Maglev Station is). There is also elevator in the Maglev Station. You don’t need to worry about it. (The elevator I mentioned means the vertical elevator, not the rolling one)

In Jin’An Temple, there are also vertical elevators. But I am not sure if it is open. I don’t remember there are elevators in the Zhong Shan Park. Anyone is living in that area, would you please help?

To take a taxi, it is same for any metro station. I would suggest Jin’an Temple, since Zhong Shan Park is a bigger station, which is not so good to find a taxi (too many people there).

Shanghai Public Transportation Card

Public Transportation Card has become an essential part of people’s life in Shanghai.

The Card

The Public Transportation Card is a credit-card-size plastic card with IC embedded in it. The card has mat surface, and is a little bit thicker than credit card. The surface is smooth, and don’t have big numbers printed on it.

This is my card:

Where to Use It?

The card basically satisfies one’s all transportation needs. It can be used on all metro, almost all buses, major taxi, and ferry. The usage is now extended to highway fees, car services fees, and can be used to pay electricity, gas, and water. It can also be used by limited operators in other cities. Look at this table.

Among all the usage, metro and bus are major reason people need it. If you look at the long line waiting at the ticketing window, you will be happy to have a card on hand.

Where to Buy the Card?

You can buy the card at the ticket office of all metro stations. Some convenient stores also vend er the card.

They charge 30 RMB for the card. That means, if you pay 100 RMB, you get a card with 70 RMB available fund in it. You can get the 30 RMB refunded if you return the card back to the card company.

Maximum deposit in the card is 1000 RMB.

Information Stored in the Card

Passengers can query the last 10 times of usage of the card. The machine I like is at the Metro Line #1 People’s Square Station. Swipe the card on the machine, and you can see when (at which hour and minute), and where you used the card, and how much they deducted from the card.

Card Holder’s Performance…

People put the card in different places. For example, I always put it in my wallet, and every morning, I swipe my wallet at the card reader. It is sensitive enough to sensor the card and deduct money from it.

Some people put it in bags. So they swipe their bags again and again on the sensor until it beeps. Some put it into pocket of jacket, and swipe the pocket. Some even put it in the pocket of treasures, and jump to have card sensed. If you stay at the gate long enough, you will see different performance of card holders. It is kind of interesting.

You Should Get a Card now

If you stay here, do get one. If you are just a visit, maybe to buy a card and bring it back home is a good idea. It is a reliable evidence that someone has ever stayed in Shanghai and took the Metro (you cannot bring Metro Ticket back home, since it is recycled).

Traffic in Shanghai

Today, the last day of my May holiday, I received an email from a friend asking me about my opinion on traffic in Shanghai. He is very smart and sensitive to small details. He shared a lot of great observation he had in Shanghai. To answer the emails, let me post my thinking in a blog.

Traffic Rules

Many foreigners observed the traffic rules do not work as it would in Shanghai. It is true.

Any country and city need to learn to get used to modern traffic, and must have the right hardware (lights, lines on roads) to support that. Most importantly, people need time to be educated about the rules.

Shanghai definitely does not perform well in terms of traffic rules, but I think it is the natural steps to get used to a car-centric world. Most pedestrians do not drive, and don’t know how it feels to sit at the driver’s seat. I believe my walking behavior changes before and after I learnt to drive – I start to really understand how dangerous to cross the road randomly or walk on the road at night (when lightening condition is not good).

Also, I would say, Shanghai is one of the best cities in terms of traffic rule enforcement. This may be surprising for many people, but for me, it is true. In many cities I visited myself, there are even astonishing things. For example, on the expressway of Xi’an to Tongchuan, or from Luoyang to Zhengzhou, buses stop on the lane to pickup passengers waiting on the road. Cow and horse carts run on the same expressway, while cars passing by at 120 km/hour or faster. In Xianyang, car drivers like to drive above the double-solid yellow lines, or most of the time, on the road to another direction. Right light is never respected. Cars come and go as if red light never exist. I would say, when the society is not transformed from bicycle-centric to car-centric, all these are acceptable. I am optimistic to say, the traffic rules will be better in the future or with the new generation growing up.

Traffic Assistants Help or Not

In Shanghai, at major cross streets, there are traffic assistant helping to keep the order in Shanghai. It works. As I discussed in my previous articles, people in China traditionally respect human-to-human relationship instead of human-to-rule relationship. Some people standing there helps to keep away from the red light.

Advice to New Drivers?

For people new to Shanghai, I don’t suggest him/her to drive at all. Shanghai’s public transportation is good enough, and you don’t need to waste time on the downtown road. To live in Pudong is another story – it is something like west U.S., where roads are wide, and traffic is less.

Radio Stations on Traffic Report

There is dedicate radio station on real time traffic report in Shanghai. It is Shanghai Traffic Radio, at AM 648. As a matter of fact, the advertisement price for traffic radio is among the highest in all radio stations in Shanghai, because the target audience are thought to be richer. There is no traffic helicopters or anything like that in Shanghai.

Road Guides at City Entrance

There are many road guides at the major entrance to the city from expressway. They just wait at the toll station, and show a big plate saying “Road Guide 带路”. They are picked up to give directions. It is the same in Hangzhou.

In the recent years, many people living in Shanghai visit Hangzhou by car, and people from other regions visit Shanghai. They have no idea about road at all. The road system in Shanghai is too complicated with so many single-direction roads, and new roads. Map does not help at all, since the road is changing all the time. First time drivers may try to drive to the destination by themselves, but for the second time, many will choose the road guide, because it is cheaper than the fine ticket policeman gave, and save one or two hours. It is the same for people entering Hangzhou. I didn’t used one yet.

They are called “Zhiye Dailu” 职业带路人 or professional road guides. According to this report, they charge 20 – 30 RMB per guide, and sometimes in good seasons, they can provide service to 7-8 cars.

However, it is explicitly illegal for them to provide the service.

In Shanghai toll gates, free road guide service is provided to drivers, that people can ask for directions there. However, I doubt without a real person on board, it is too easily to get lost in Shanghai.

Small Incidents

In Shanghai, when small incidents happens, many people will argue and attract many passengers to gather and watch.

In the recent two years, there are regulations and guidelines issued to help solve this problem. When it is clear who is responsible to the accident, the regulation requires both parties to leave the street, especially elevated highways, as quick as possible, and call policeman. Policeman is required to arrive within 5 minutes in downtown, 8 minutes outside outer ring, and deal with the incident within the next 15 minutes. That means, from small incidents to both parties can go, it should be within 20 to 23 minutes.

I never heard of the insurance cards in LAX.

Who is Responsible?

The regulations changes from year to year. Once, there are rules in other cities that when car hit pedestrian, if it is pedestrian’s fault, the car drivers don’t need to be responsible for that. Recently, the rules changed back to the original version: If cars hit people, no matter whose fault it is, car drivers will be punished. The difference is, if it is the car driver’s fault, the punishment is more severe.

Drivers are required to stop or slow down before pedestrians. I applause for this new enforcement of laws.

I Don’t Drive Well After Back from San Jose

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.

Very Confused

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.

Doing Business?

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.

Any Suggestion?

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.

Traffic Rules in Shanghai – Part II

This post is to continue the discussion on Traffic Rules in Shanghai.

Check what my star reader Carsten shared with us on safety in Shanghai. The original comment was posted under my article Just Few Steps Away from My New Car:

About safety :

All people in China should be happy for every little effort the authorities do for the safety. More than 100,000 people get KILLED in the traffic every year in China (and nobody knows how many gets injured).

It goes just SOOOO slowly to make even the slightest improvements.

A couple of months ago Shanghai introduced a new traffic regulation that emphasizes the right for the pedestrians (walking people) to cross the street at the pedestrian crossings (the wide white lines in a band across the road).

I can see now that the traffic assistants are trying to teach people to stop for the red lights, but it is difficult when every bus or taxi just plows through the masses, inside and outside these crossings. And they have no right to punish the violators.

I hope that there soon will be introduced a 100 RMB fee to cars for driving through a not free pedestrian crossing, and same fee for the pedestrians crossing the streets outside of the crossings, or crossing for red light.

The authorities can very well use all the advertisement TV’s there are put up everywhere to teach the people some traffic manners and of the punishment fee.

In USA the cars can (like in China) turn right, BUT ONLY IF IT CAN BE DONE WITHOUT ANY DISTURBANCE.

In Europe – NO way! Wait until the green light turns on.

That clearly avoids the “can I, or can I not…?” situations when turning right for red light.

I can say, that a pedestrian in northern Europe always have the right, then follows the bicycles and cars. THE WEAK PART HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY.

This is mainly because it is not even possible for pedestrians and bicycles to get a license to prove their traffic behavior.

But the ones with engines does.

Jianshuo, 3 questions, how is the policy in China of this right turn business ?

What did they actually teach you in the driving school about the relationship between you as a driver and the pedestrians?

And last, did they emphasize the importance of keeping distance ?

I like to know this, because I like to KICK the F…… cars that nearly run me down from behind, even I cross for green light and inside the right zones !

Anyway, I’m the lucky one, because I’m 191 cm, so the cars will get hurt if they hit me, and that makes most cars willing to stop for me, hehehe ;-) !

And – put on the seat belt EVERY SINGLE time before you turn the key in your car.

I have made it a demand for all passengers going with me to put on the belts before I put the car in gear. I don’t want to be responsible for their sudden death, even it’s not my fault.

“I drive perfectly” as all says, but unfortunately all the others are driving with their head in another place than the traffic, so I have protect me and my dears against the lunatics that kills.

Check this page : http://www.disastercenter.com/traffic/

and to get more knowledge, download the WHO report (summary) in Chinese or English : http://www.who.int/world-health-day/2004/infomaterials/world_report/en/

Thanks for Casten’s observation for Shanghai’s traffic condition! It is true. I have been a pedestrian (the weak party) in Shanghai for 9 years (and will always play the pedestrian role in the future) and been a driver (the stronger party) for almost one year. The change of roles helped me to understand the behavior of both pedestrians and driver in the big melting-pot city. I strongly believe the chaos of traffic in Shanghai is because the percentage of people who can drive is too low and majority of pedestrians do not understand how the cars work so they follow the majority.

Let me answer Carsten’s three questions first.

How is the policy in China of this right turn business ?

In China, if you can turn right at anytime unless there is a red right arrow prevent you to do that. (Disclaimer: Do not take this as official traffic rule – I didn’t got full score in my traffic rule exam and may be seriously wrong). Sometimes, the right turn lane are combined with forward lane. At red light, if you don’t want foward cars before you, you can safely turn right. If there is car waiting for the red light to go forward, as common sense indicates, you need to wait the cars before you to leave before you can turn right. :-D

What did they actually teach you in the driving school about the relationship between

you as a driver and the pedestrians?

Well. To be honest, they didn’t teach me anything about it. My mentor has more than 30 years of driving experience, but he couldn’t speak mandarin well and didn’t receive good education. He was paid very badly. I don’t know how much he makes for teaching us, but when I told him I graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University and am working for a famous foreign company, he commented: “Oh. Boy. You are so promising. You must be able to earn 2000 RMB per month!”. Then I knew what very high salary means to him.

Enough about my nice mentor. I just want to say, many mentors in driving school do not care anything about relationship, philosophy or anything that are not directly related to the police tickets. If the policeman do not award you a ticket, you can do anything.

Unlike mentors, the traffic rules do specify the behavior of a vehicle. I reviewed the rule again with Wendy when she prepared for her exam. Here are some:

  • When a car comes to a pedestrian crossing, the car has to slow down to give way to pedestrians.
  • If there are pedestrians on the pedestrian crossing, the car has to STOP before the line to allow people to pass.
  • Cars have to give ways to pedestrians even the pedestrians are not on a pedestrian crossing.
  • Drivers are 100% responsible for any traffic accidents involving a pedestrian, UNLESS they can prove enough attention has been paid to avoid the accident.

Please note the last one. This means, if someone run into a highway (where cars drive at 120 km per hour), and a car hit the him/her, the car driver still has to be partly responsible for it. This is the major change from the traffic rule of the last version. In that version, the pedestrians are 100% responsible for any accident if they do not use pedestrian crossings AND a pedestrian crossing/bridge/tunnel can be found with 30 meters. I support the change.

How well do I do? Well. I have to say, I am trying to follow the rule but often failed. It is because, the cars behind never expect the car in front to slow down (not to mention stop) at pedestrian crossings. For many times, when I see someone cross the street at the pedestrian crossing, I slowed down to give ways to them, the car behind almost hit my car and the driver honked angrily as if I am the bad driver. After several time, I found I was a trouble maker on the road, and what I do (to slow down) is many times more dangerous than rushing onto the pedestrian crossing. Of cause, to do so, you also need to honk to get the pedestrians’ attention and they will run away. Oh. Forgive me! This is how I can survey in this either hit the pedestrian or hit by car behind business.

The same is for the STOP sign. Nobody stops or expects others to stop. If you stop, the next car may hit yours.

Did they emphasize the importance of keeping distance?

Simple. Yes. The emphasized, just as they emphasized the STOP sign. Look at the EU vs Italy flash. The Yes! No! is exactly describing the situation in China. In the flash, the scenarios or turning right, stop, and distance are repeating itself in Shanghai everyday and in every corner.

Shanghai Morning in A Car

I wake up at around 8:05 this morning, about 15 minutes later than normal days. Wendy has left for Xiamen already without my awareness. What a strange world! She flies there to interview some guys in Xiamen and will get back by late flight tonight. It all happens in a day. Maybe at the time I wake up, the plane carrying her already left Shanghai and was flying over Zhejiang.

Rushing to dirty kitchen, I start to wash. As I described before, the place I live right now is a poor, miserable, and old apartment without telephone. The washroom was occupied by the new SIEMENS Extra 1550 Front Load Washing Machine. Thank God that the decoration of the new apartment is almost finished and I am expecting new life very soon.

At around 8:10 AM, I stepped out of the door. The wood door with simple lock is a little bit better than no lock, but I don’t have any high expectation for this kind of lock. Once I left my key in my Meilong home. I hired a lock picker to help me. He put two sticks into the lock and about 3 seconds later, the door is open – he opened the door quicker than I do with my key. Howstuffworks.com provides a tutorial about how lock picking works.

After that, I know when I lock the door of this kind, it take effects only on physiologic aspect. It does not prevent any thief from breaking it.

Shanghai becomes warm these days. It is really warm. The temperature raised to 26°C already, according to the Living in Shanghai Talk Show at Shanghai Radio Station. I started the car, pull it back and went into the Jinxiu Rd. There is bad sign that more and more cars appeared on the road. This is not unexpected. Even Jian Shuo Wang got a car, why shouldn’t others? I just feel the traffic of Jinxiu Rd. increased dramatically in the last one month after I moved here. Maybe because more and more people are moving to Pudong area, while before, there is almost no people living there.

Within 10 minutes, I am at the entrance of the Nanpu Bridge, heading to Puxi. After Lupu Bridge opens, there is almost no traffic jam on Nanpu. I only need to be patient to drive slowly at the ramp. As soon as I get onto the bridge, all cars speeded up and I switched to shift 5 for full speed.

Since I am using a Hangzhou plate, I cannot use the elevated high-way at this time. The ban is lifted after 9:30 AM. I chose the Lujiabang Rd. -> Zhaojiabang Rd. -> Tianyaoqiao Rd. route. Shanghai’s traffic is not that bad. On this road, I never met traffic jam so far. There is only a longer red light at the interaction of Wanping Road.

Around 8:50, I am at the turning point of #30, Tianyaoqiao Rd. I pulled my car to the right. There are so many passengers and bicycles on the way. I have to be extremely careful to drive. If I drive a little bit faster, I may hit a pedestrian. If I drive a little slower, more and more people will get into the way before me so I have to wait endlessly. According to the newly announce Road Safety Law, if a car hit a pedestrian, no mater whose fault it is, the driver have to be responsible for the accident. Before the new law, the pedestrian has to share responsibility of the accident. News reported a driver hit a jaywalker to death and he paid 400,000 RMB to the family of the victim, although he had no fault.

8:52 AM. I parked the car at the underground parking lot of Metro Tower. The Metro Tower only charges 600 RMB per month for people working in this building. That is cheap! I heard the 66 Plaza charges 1800 RMB per month…

Well. This is a typical morning of my life. It may be a typical morning of many people (who have cars) in Shanghai – a city with 19 million people.

Traffic Control in Shanghai

To continue my story about the traffic ticket I got yesterday; I am going to tell the story of traffic control in Shanghai. There are obviously many interesting ways to keep the traffic, making the roads in the city a maze land for drivers.

The Expensive Plate

Raising the expense to get a car number plate is one of the most significant ways. Although there is hot debate in China around the policy that controls the number of cars by raising the cost of ownership, the car plate price is still going high. A car plate costs at least 38500 RMB in August. The price went down for a while in Sept at lowest success bid of 2800 RMB. I don’t know the lowest successful bid price of this month – the bid was held yesterday.

The Single Passes

Many roads in downtown Shanghai is single pass only. For example, the Tian Yao Qiao Rd. near where I work is a single pass road – cars can only goes from north to south. I bet the number of single pass road is almost the same as the two way roads in downtown Shanghai.

Unfortunately, the maps widely available do not mark these roads. Even the maps specially designed for drivers cannot effectively mark these roads. The rapid change in the road infrastructure force the tourism map to publish a new copy every three month to reflect the road changes, not to mention the driver’s map. The road, for example, the Nandan Road, opening for one direction only will be changed to open to the opposite direction without notice. I felt it so hard to survive in the city.

Restricted cards

There are four types of cars that are restricted in the city.

  • Cars driven by new drivers (after get the driver’s license within one year) – I am in this category.
  • Cars with plates issued outside Shanghai. (It can be tell from the number on the plate)
  • Empty taxi
  • Cars with 1200cc or smaller engines

These cars cannot use the elevated highway in the rush hours (maybe from 7:30 – 9:30, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM). So it is impossible to use the newly built Lupu bridge. I can only use the Dapu Road Tunnel, the Nanpu Bridge and the Yanan East Rd. Tunnel. (see the map)

Left Turn Forbidden

At many intersections, left turn is forbidden. At the intersection between Cao Bao Road and Long Wu Road, for example, there is even a rule that cars can only turn left or right at the intersection, but cannot go straight forward. Many car drivers get the tickets at this place – I think not many people, especially for new drivers, can understand this strange rule.

Thank God that that there are not many “right turn” forbidden roads yet. :-)

The Placement of the Signs

How can I get to know all these rules? I like to talk with taxi drivers and ask their suggestions. Guess what? They told me, “You have to keep several hundreds RMB in your pocket for one year when you drive. When a policeman stops you and give you a ticket, you know that you have done something wrong. Remember it and avoid the mistake.” “You have to go through this painful time in Shanghai. There is no shortcut.”

Poor me. What they suggested is very reasonable. There IS a sign saying the rule of “Odd weekday for odd numbers and even weekday for even numbers” at the Chongqing North Road, but if I don’t drive onto the road, I cannot see the sign. After I see the sign, I also see the policemen standing below the sign. When I see the policeman, I already see him pointing his finger to me and asked me to stop. :-( Learn from mistake is an inevitable way to drive in Shanghai.

The traffic sign forbidding the new car drivers are placed at the entrance of the elevated highways. I bet when drivers see the plate, it is already to late to change the lane to the other one leading to the surface road.

The Roads Are not Straight

The road map of Shanghai is already a big maze – even for people reading the maps. The roads are designed to be curve. It is hard to say the direction of a road. For example, the Hua Shan Road goes north from Xujiahui, and then goes directly eastward, then goes to north again. So in Shanghai, turning right twice does not mean you are returning to the original direction. Many times, I am confused to see the two roads has more than one interactions. Haha. It is so interesting.

New Job – Road Guide!

At the entrance of all major express ways to Shanghai, such as the A8 (from Hangzhou) and A11 (from Nanjing), you will see a lot of people with a new occupation – Road Guide. They hold a big advertisement plate saying: Road Guide – 10 RMB or 20 RMB.

Guess what service they offer? They can get onto your car and help you to get through the big maze of the city. Many drivers from outside Shanghai will hire a guide to go with them. The service fee for the guide certainly is compensated by eliminating the traffic tickets and the time spend on the wrong way.

Typical Rush Hours in Shanghai – Part II

I described the rush hours of Shanghai in the morning yesterday, not surprisingly, the rush hours in the afternoon are also interesting. Here we go.

Definition of Rush Hours in the Afternoon

The rush hours in the afternoon are not as “rush” as those in the morning. Some services and government organizations closes as early as 4:00 PM so lots of people will take buses home at that period of time. Most businesses closes at 6:00 PM.

Unlike in the morning, people tend to stay in office late. When I step out of the office today, it is 6:30 PM. It is the earliest time I left office these months. I used to leave office as late as 10:00 PM or 12:00 PM, but situation get better recently.

Buying grocery

My job today is to get some grocery in the supermarket and bring it back. The supermarket is part of my life. It is interesting that the Hiu Jin Supermarket opens in the basement floor of Hiu Jin Shopping Mall in the Xujiahui Area. The rental fee for shops in this “golden” commercial area is extremely, but the supermarket selling grocery and fruit can still make a living. :-) It is very convenient to buy some and take the bus No. 43 in front of the shopping mall back home.

I felt a little bit embarrassed when I found I didn’t bring a penny with me when I have put all I needed into the shopping cart. I do have a credit card. The good thing is, this supermarket accepts credit card, while most others just accept RMB in cash.

I was still not at ease when I present my Bank of China Great Wall credit card to the lady when I checked out. Seldom did she see anyone to pay the 31 RMB groceries. People who buy a house at hundreds of thousands are still using cash these year. I missed the time when I was on business trip to Seattle where I can always use my credit card. Of cause there is still exception. It was when I took taxi from Redmond Microsoft campus to nearby Fairfield Inn. The Indian driver told me in his strange English when I attempted to use my ICBC international credit card: “It is small money. It is not big money….” So I know the 5% credit card charge still means a lot for him. In China, the credit card service charge is 1%. However, only large shopping malls accept credit card. That is a very big problem now. I am happy that this situation, like other problems in Shanghai, is becoming better and better. You see, even this supermarket accept my credit card.

I was happy the lady didn’t say a word about my card. Typically, they will always ask: “Do you have cash?” before trying to swap my card. The card reader works very fine after I inputted my 6-digit password. The printer gave out the shopping list and the confirmation page happily. After I signed my name on the confirmation page, my check-out process succeeded. BTW, there is a hot debate about whether the credit card without a password is safe or not in Shanghai, since people feel unsafe if they are not asked for the password. They think the signature itself is not strong enough to protect their bank account. It is true since seldom did I see too many salesperson check the signature against that on the back of the credit card. :-)

Bus No. 43

Soon, I was seated on the upper deck of the double-deck bus No. 43, heading to my home. At around 7:00 PM, the upper desk is not crowded. Only about 10 people were there while there are about 40 seats there. It may because the bus is not equipped with air conditioning. If I wait two minutes later, I can get on board an air conditioned No. 43. I just don’t want to wait and to have A/C or not is not a big deal for me. This one without A/C is cheap – only 1 RMB for the whole trip while the A/C bus costs 2 RMB. I actually don’t care about the difference – there seems no big difference for me. That is, if I choose to take bus instead of taxi, I have saved at least 12 RMB already, so why bother care about the 1 RMB?

Noisy journey

If you want me to list the top ten bad things about the city of Shanghai, traffic and noise should be on the list. The bus No. 43 runs under the elevated highway. The noise generated by the engines of cars reflected between the road and the roof (elevated highway) and become worse. So does the dust. Thank God that there is only about 1000 meters of such painful road. Soon we turned into the Caobao Rd. – a major road connecting Caohejing and Qibao town. My home is just beside the road.

15 minutes

The short trip lasted for 15 minutes and when I got off the bus at Xiqin Rd. Station, it almost dark and I can see the lamp in my house. It is nice and sweet. It paid off all the 15-minute hot, noisy and dusty journey. //sign. This is the real life in the big metropolitan of Shanghai.

Typical Rush Hours in Shanghai

As always, I waked up at about 7:50 AM. The sun had already climbed high into the sky. I have the thick three layer curtain (that kind with plastic opaque in the middle of the two layer of cotton) to block out light, so it feels as dark as mid-night even in the morning.

Well, I still had plenty of time, since my office hours starts from 9:00 AM – the typical foriengn-owned company schedule. Based on the traffic condition from my home to the place I work at, 30 minutes should be enough. As long as I step out of the door of my home no later than 8:30 AM, I will not be late. It is nice that I don’t have to get up earlier as many people in the state-owned companies whose work begin as early as 8:00 AM or even earlier.

This is a typical working-day morning – getting up, wash and brush my teeth, have an egg pie as breakfast. As I expected, I stepped out of the door at 8:30 AM sharp.

Crowded and Busy in the Morning

There is at least one disadvantages of getting up late, the only one I can think of – it is already very hot outside. It is the routine again – to choose from bus, taxi, and metro. Bus and taxi are the same – they need to slowly move in the traffic on the Caoxi Rd. North. It costs time and no one can predict how bad the traffic is. The metro station is within 6 minute’s work, but it is definitely not a pleasant journey in the hot and busy morning.

Metro Journey

My choice today is to take the metro. Metro is always realiable and quick – as soon as you get on board. Well. Wait a minute. The Metro accident of last week changed my mindset about the Metro line. If you don’t know the event yet, let me tell you. The Metro line #1 experienced power failure in the rush hour in the morning. The worst thing is, there is no working backup power supply. So 450,000 people were left on the metro stations. Of cause, bus and taxi are impossible to find. Most of them was late that day, including me. It is considered as one of the worst accident in the history of Shanghai Metro Line. For the first time, the GM of Shanghai Metro Corp. appologized for the pause of operation to the citizens.

I used 2 RMB for the single trip train ticket. Don’t get me wrong. Round trip tickets are not available and there are other prices for the ticket (there are 4 RMB and 3 RMB tickets). The automatic ticket machine works very well – I seldom see it went wrong, while the multimedia guide kiosk seldom work as they are designed. It prooves that software is still not as realiable as stones.

The Metro is at the end of the business hours in the morning when I got on board. People getting onto the train are more than people getting off from the first station at Xinzhuang all the way to Cao Bao Rd. Station. So at the time I entered the train, it is almost about 90% of the maxium possible load.

Xujiahui Station

The Xujiahui Station is the first station where many people will get off the traini. My estimation is that about 1/5 of the passengers will get off. If you are interested, the People’s Square Station is the largest dropping-off and get-onboard station in Shanghai.

I happen to find out an old picture about the Xujiahui Square at night. It was taken when I just bought my digital camera.

shanghai.xujiahui-night.square-cars.jpg

© Jian Shuo Wang

The Xujiahui Metro Station entrance and exit is just located on the left part of the picture under the large glass ball, near the PizzaHut pole.

Traffic Rules in Shanghai

If you come to Shanghai, at least one thing will surprise you – the ignorance to traffice rules. I remember about one year ago, I read about this on Shanghai-Shanghai.net (now Shanghaiexpat.comarticle “There were no traffic rules, but only traffic suggestions”. Andrew said the same thing in his article.

It is illegal to use the pedestrian Shanghai

The article writer (sorry I forgot the name and cannot find it on the site again) even joked: “It seems illegal to use the pedestrian in Shanghai since people cross the road from every direction at any place except the pedestrian.”

Yes. The ignorance of traffic rule is very popular. That is a big problem in the city since a modern city not only needs skyscrapers, it also needs the civilization in the people. I am very interested in this topic. Everyday, when I come to a cross road, I will stop and check the traffic light on the opposite site. If it is red, then stop and wait. If it is green, you can go. What a simple rule it is. Unfortunately, I always see the MAJORITY of people – yes, the majority of people will go straitly ahead even when there is a red light over there.

It is shame for the city – a city without good traffic orders. The interesting thing is, the people who break the rule cannot get to the opposite side as quick as they wish. They need are forced to stop in the middle of the road when big vehicles and lines of cars rushing by – it is dangerous to be jammed in the middle of the heavy traffice road. I oftern find myself the only person to wait for the green light on the road from Xujiahui to Cao Bao road.

Push-for-green-light button

New equipments were installed at some cross road one year ago. They are a big palm-size button on the pole of signal lights. You need to press the button for a green-light on the opposite of the street. Unfortunately, the equipments were ignored again along with the traffic rules. Seldom can I see anyone borthered to press the button. They just directly go across the road no-matter it is red light or green light.

Not working botton

It is even worse some time the buttons do not work. I walked across the cross road of Nandan and Cao Xi North Rd at mid-night two days before. I pressed the button but nothing happened. All the four signal lights for walkers were red. I waited for serveral cycle of vehicle lights. At last, after waiting for about 15 minutes, I was so frustrated and go under the red lights to cross the road.

I reported the buttons to the hotline of Oriential TV. Two days later, that is today, I got a phone call from a report from OTV Wide Watch Program asking to interviewing me and thanking me for my report. Under the insist of the reporter, I went out of the building and met with them.

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Image credit: SHOTV.com

I described the experience before the camera for about 5 minutes. The report also asked me some questions like “What do you think the use of the buttons?”, “what do you expect the transportation administration to do to help the residents?”… Then I returned to work.

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Image credit: SHOTV.com

The program should be broadcasted to 1.6 million people in Shanghai at the hottest time: 19:10 tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

OTV Wide Watch Program is the most popular news program in Shanghai broadcasting at the golden time when all family members just gather at the dining table.

About SARS

Today, there is no new reported SARS case country wide.

Tour Resumes

The Shanghai city tour resumes today. The tour bus lines heading to surrounding areas start to operate after pausing for about one month. Starting from July 1, 2003, 41 international travel agents in Shanghai are allowed to host international tourist. That is a strong signal of the positive move of the SARS situation.

Summer comes

It is announced that from today, Shanghai formally entered summer.It is defined that sequential high temperature above 22 degree C is treated as the begining of summer. Nice!