First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Comments now moderated...

I know I don't post here anymore, but I left comments on because people do still read this and I like getting their reactions. However, since the 'spam' to 'real comment' ratio is now about 50/1, I'm turning on moderation. I'm also going to go in and clean up the posts, because many of the comments are actually interesting. So feel free to comment, but know it may take a while to show up. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Live Action Left Turn: 2009 Beijing traffic

OK, I know it's been two years, but I just found someone who was just in Beijing and filmed a left turn and gave a shout out to my post on the topic. See nationsbeglad's full post here, and thanks for the mention!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Oh, what the hey, one last traffic graphic...

ADDENDUM, SEPT. 24, 2007: Thanks to everyone who has commented, I now know that this phenomenon is known as The Chinese Dragon, The Dragon, or The Car Dragon and is practiced in Taiwan (and probably other places as well.) I LOVE that this has a name. It just goes to prove, as poster gr82cu observed, that if everyone plays by the same rules, even things that look strange or even dangerous to foreign eyes are perfectly safe and logical.

Even knowing that people don't get killed doing this (as I presumed when I first saw The Car Dragon), I hope you enjoy the read!

ORIGINAL POST: OK, one last traffic post for old time’s sake. On one of my last days in Beijing, I saw this one which, as the great Dave Barry would say, I SWEAR I am not making up. I call it:

Synchronized Insanity


Another left turn situation at a stoplight. Two lanes of traffic in each direction pass under a bridge. There are barriers separating opposing traffic, except under the bridge itself. Frontage roads run alongside the elevated highway, and the cars in column [A] want to get on this service road.

Step 1:

The light turns green – yay! Column [A] pulls forward, the lead car nosing a bit into the northbound lanes, sniffing for an opening. And they’re in luck – car [C] (not yet in the frame) has failed to adequately tailgate car [B], a near-mortal sin in the world of Beijing traffic.

Step 2:

The danse macabre begins. The lead car, [A1], lurches in front of [C], who slams on his brakes, stopping the left northbound lane.

Step 3:

Like roller Rockettes, every car in the column that is past the inter-lane barrier, from [A2] to [A6], simultaneously takes a sharp left, filling the dead space behind [B] as he passes. Meanwhile, [A1] has successfully blocked [D], stopping all northbound traffic and freeing him to complete the left turn.

Step 4:

With the precision of a drill team, [A2] to [A6] now turn right. [A7] follows as he passes the barrier – southbound cars are now starting their left turn a full 200 feet before the road they want to end up on.

Step 5:

But revenge is sweet. Since column [A] is now heading SOUTH in the far-right NORTHBOUND lane, [C] now has a clear shot up the left northbound lane, and his own band of minions eager to cut someone off. Column [C] accelerates, with opposing traffic whizzing by on both sides. And an impure element has infiltrated column [A]…

Step 6:

It’s car [E], who – and this is absolutely insane – actually wants to continue south. In the southbound lanes. Can you imagine? Anyway, this frees column [C] to exploit the opening and prevent any additional cars from column [A] from turning at the barrier.

Step 7:

The last cars from the lead [A] element are reaching the frontage road, but now have to drive quickly and carefully to avoid [D], who has crept forward in a fit of pique, a sort of slow-motion game of chicken. The following members of [A] follow [E] – the rule among Beijing drivers is ALWAYS do ANYTHING that gets you as close as possible to your final destination, even if it means –heaven forbid – staying in your own lane and not running anyone over.

Return to Step 1:

Lather, rinse, repeat.


  • As of this writing, since I started tracking stats on this site on June 6, there have been 4,056 visitors, who have accounted for 6,836 visits – a small group of regulars, and a lot of one-time visitors.
  • By far, the most popular single post has been Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn, with 3,320 views. 2,194 of those visits have come since August 26th, when the post was picked up by some China-centric blogs. Since then, it spread to many other blogs – as a web guy by profession, kinda cool to see.
  • The post has been translated into Cantonese, meaning I am now published in at least two languages around the world! (Thanks, 暗黑的卡夫卡!)
  • According to www.business-opportunities.biz, a site that has a cool feature that computes the value of web sites by simply entering the URL, my blog is worth $21,452.52. Whoever wants to give me that money, please write – I need to buy a new furnace and windows for the house.
  • My blog comes up #15 in a Google search for ‘Beijing traffic.’ In a search for ‘chubble,’ I’m number three.

So long for now! It’s been fun!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Travelogue Epilogue

Wow. Time flies when you’re getting back into normal life. I’ve been home almost two weeks now, and today was my third day back in the office in Minneapolis. I’m right back in the mix – I’m out to LA for a presentation next Tuesday, have a pitch a week later, and I’m working on a site that’s in a ‘sprint’ process, which essentially means build and design on the fly and fix it later. We had a fair amount of turnover in the creative department – 4 departures, 5 hires, so a busy summer.

Took me about 5 days to get over my jet lag. Fortunately I had the week off, so I could kind of adjust naturally. Been reading a lot, doing some lawn care, long walks with the dog (she was very excited to see me), spending time with Shannon (I was very excited to see her), had a dripping faucet repair project quickly spiral into a three day crisis that involved replacing all but one pipe under the sink, went to a noon Twins game last Wednesday, and just generally got back into the swing of life stateside.

Of course, everyone has a ton of questions about China, and upon a little reflection and constant retelling, I can say this was one of my top experiences ever. I’m glad I got to go there, and I’m glad I got to go now. Beijing at this moment in time is unlike anything ever before or since; in 2 years, I would have a totally different experience.

I will miss and treasure the experience a LOT, but to be honest with myself I have to say I handle settled environments better. I can deal with crisis and fluid situations, but to be at my best I need to have traction, which is hard to gain in a shifting landscape. I really admire the people I met who can roll with the punches while jumping through hoops, an ability that comes in handy in Beijing.

I learned a ton about my industry and about myself, so I guess that makes it a successful exchange. I only hope the Beijing office and my new friends got as much out of me as I did out of them. I haven’t been good about writing since I got back, but I will keep in touch – thank you, instant messaging!

People ask what I missed, if it was tough to readjust. You know what? Not really. I didn’t come home craving anything except the ability to speak the language, but that quickly becomes routine. Driving is fun (it cost about $300 to get the car in shape – new tire, new battery and some engine tuneup.) The air is cleaner here, and I really notice that.

People ask about the Chinese government and what it’s like in a Communist country. To be honest, on the one hand, you can’t tell. People are basically the same the world over, and for the most part people are far more worried about everyday life than who’s in charge – sound familiar? – and as a rule people are decent, honest and hardworking. Jerks exist in about the same proportion wherever you go.

Nobody talks about the government, at least not to me. My family talked with some Chinese on their tour who said most older people are just happy for stability – live through a few revolutions and anyone who keeps the peace is A-OK. The younger generation, I surmise, knows opportunity when they see it, and they’re more than happy with a system that gives them access to everything they need, the creature comforts they want, and constant opportunity for advancement. And who can blame them? How many of us in America really look any deeper than that on a day to day basis?

On the other hand, yes, I could tell it was a different system. We complain about our media here in the U.S., but when you come from America and read Chinese official news, you can tell the difference. Good news is everywhere. Bad news is couched in the assurances that it isn’t THAT bad. Honest analysis is very hard to come by.

And the scary thing is, no matter how cynical you are, it’s easy to not notice what isn’t called to your attention. Just a lesson for y’all. A lot of ugly stuff comes with a fairly free press, but the alternative has its own issues.

I had to be on file with the local police. When I casually made conversation like ‘Have you been to [name of place outside China]?’ to local Chinese, there would be an awkward silence, then ‘Well, it’s not easy to leave.’ Even though the Chinese government isn’t omniscient, certain topics – Tiananmen, Taiwan and Tibet, in particular – only came up furtively and in places like moving cabs, and only with other expats. Little things like that say a lot.

In fact, I’m pretty sure this blog was read by officials (censors, maybe?) in Beijing – I watched the stats, and despite being blocked in China, I would get a couple people who would consistently visit from Beijing every few days. Must have been government to be outside the Great Firewall.

But this is not meant to be a critique. It’s a different system and certainly was the only way to get China where it is today as quickly as it’s grown. Will there be repercussions? Probably, but I’m not going to place ANY bets on what they will be.

Probably the number one thing people ask about is the food, and despite the fact that I enjoyed 90% of what I had, they only want to hear about the other 10% - the chicken feet, the cow stomach, the century eggs. Human nature, I suppose.

In the final analysis, I guess I can only speak for myself, and I can say I loved it and I hope to back someday. So take that for what it’s worth.

Thanks for reading along! It’s been fun! In a few days, I’ll probably reverse this blog so it reads from beginning to end. If you enjoyed this, check back every now and again – if I start a new blog abut my continuing adventures, I’ll link to it from the top of this one.

Until then: Zai Chien!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Safe at Home!

I think I'll do a wrap-up post some time over the next few days, but for my coworkers and friends and family I wanted to say I got home safe and sound Thursday afternoon. Sorry I haven't been in touch - gonna be fighting jet lag for a few days, I think. But all is well. Hope the same is true for you!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

So I'm Going To Minneapolis

Goodbye, China! And to everyone back home, I'll be seeing you soon!

China +97: Last Hurrah


It's my last evening here in Beijing. I have had a full day of packing - I seriously don't know how I have this much stuff. I came over with two large suitcases, full, but certainly not bursting, and I'm going home with those same suitcases ripping at the seams (seriously - I think we need to buy some new luggage, Shannon - sorry!) and a duffel bag also overflowing, plus my computer bag and carry-on.

It took a lot of jiggering and rejiggering to make it work. Just as I was starting to get it under control, I got a call from work, telling me they were couriering a goodbye gift to me. Naturally, I'm flattered and grateful - but it turned out to be a glass-fronted shadowbox with miniature Beijing Opera masks in it, about two feet wide, 15 inches tall and five inches deep. Very cool, but I can't exactly put it in a pocket. So one bag got pulled apart, another got stuffed a little more, and I made it work - as my sister is fond of saying whenever we have to load a car or truck, "Always plenty of room!"

Right now I'm having dinner. I ordered in Annie's Italian, so I'm dining on chicken tortellini, a Caesar salad and garlic bread. In a little while I'm going to meet some friends for a drink at Frank's (only one - I have a VERY early day tomorrow) and then it's to bed for the last time in Beijing. I'll wake up at 4:30, shower, make my last blog post from Beijing and a car is picking me up at 5:45. Flight takes off at 9:05 local (8:05 pm on the 15th back in Minneapolis), and a mere 17 hours later I'll be home!

Mixed feelings, to be sure. I'll miss the energy and the feeling that I'm doing something adventurous. But I look forward to wife, family, friends, dog, clean air, driving and water I can drink from the tap. Oh, and HAVING A CLUE ABOUT WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON AROUND ME.

See you soon!