Today is a No Car Day in Shanghai, and other 107 cities in China. On the No Car Day, let me write about some thoughts around huge traffic jam last week.
Last Monday, I decided to use public transportation – Metro – to go to work. My plan was drive to Century Park metro station which is 4 km away, then park-and-go. It turned out to the biggest mistake I made last week.
At the Jin Xiu Road and West Gao Ke Road, there was a traffic jam, and I waited in my car for almost one hour. I left home before 8:00 AM, and when I get to the Metro Station, it is already 9:00 AM. The 4 km (still within 30 minute walking distance) cost me 1 hour. The whole road of Jin Xiu Road was 100% empty after the crossroad, since all cars were caught in the jam.
The Mysterious Road Block
The root cause of the jam is a road block that occupied 2 lanes at the interaction. I assume there should be some construction work going on. The block turned the 4 lane road into a one lane road (the other lane was occupied by Metro Station construction site already).
What a mass! I waited in the long line for 40 minutes, and when I managed to get to the interaction of the two roads, I found I am in the middle of a huge maze. I am heading north, and the car left and right of me are heading south. The car before me is heading east, making it a perfect T-shape, and so does the car before this car.
If you look from above, there are tens of T-shapes, or 45 degree intersections. The result is, none of the cars can possibly move.
I waited there, and watch the traffic light. It turns red, yellow, green …. red, yellow, green… after many circles, any car didn’t move. I can tell you, it is boring to observe the traffic light changing when your car is in the middle of a cross road.
First of all, I don’t know if there is anyway for me, as an individual in this city, or this district of the city, or a citizen of the neighborhood, to sue the construction company for blocking the road. If they do that, they should have obtained a permit to do so. Can I check the permit or ask a city attorney (there is no such a role in China) to check it? If they just put the block there without any permit, is there a law that I can use to sue them?
In China, people will laugh at me if I ask this kind of western questions, since no one thinks that way. But why not? If we (all citizens in this neighborhood collectively) own this land, and this city, we should be able to find out a way to restrict some power (like those of the construction company) and find a balance between their interest and my interest (I don’t want to use the public interest, which term has been abused to describe some privileged group). The power without check and balance causes chaos.
If it is the road block causing the problem, is there ANY way to prevent it from happing again? If there is no law against it, can we approve a law?
When I try to seek the possibility, I feel desperate. The answer is simple: there is no way to influence any public policy (I am even not talking about the country level. I am talking about the street and neighborhood level), there is no way to sue government (since a legal system is not working when we talk about public affairs, not conflict between two companies. Well, to be fair, there ARE such mechanism, but as many other mechanism, it does not work), and there is no way to even raise the awareness of people about this importance of check and balance, and people’s right (that is the reason why blog or website trying to discuss these issues were shutdown). All these thoughts lead to a black hole, an endless black hole, which no result. Obviously, seeking for the change in this situation is strictly forbidden, but I believe it is good for the future of China.